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Islamists see corruption-free Egypt economy flourishing

Islamists back investment and free markets, says Brotherhood

Reuters, Wednesday 23 Feb 2011
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Views: 2006

The Muslim Brotherhood sees foreign investment in Egypt flourishing once the economy is free of the corruption that weakened it in President Hosni Mubarak's era, and says its political agenda will have broad appeal.

A leading member of the Islamist group, Egypt's biggest political force, said the party it plans to establish would be based on Islamic laws but acceptable to a wide section of society.

"The final version (of the programme) will be broadly acceptable to everyone because the atmosphere has changed, circumstances have changed and the Brotherhood themselves have changed," Essam al-Erian told Reuters in an interview.

"The revolution changed everyone," he said, explaining how the group's interaction with other sections of society during the uprising that toppled Mubarak had affected its thinking.

The revolution was ignited by online activists and brought together Egyptians from across the political spectrum, from Islamists to leftists.

Though the Brotherhood did not play a role organising the protests at their outset, it has been one of the main winners from Mubarak's removal. Officially banned under Mubarak, the group has moved ever more to the heart of Egyptian public life since he was toppled on Feb. 11.
The Brotherhood announced on Monday it would launch "The Freedom and Justice Party" to contest parliamentary elections which the military rulers running the country say they will hold within six months.

Seeking to reassure Egyptians about its political strength, the Brotherhood has said it will not seek a parliamentary majority in those elections or contest a presidential election.

"When we talk about the slogans of the revolution -- freedom, social justice, equality -- all of these are in the sharia (Islamic law)," Erian said. "This revolution called for what the Islamic sharia calls for," he added.
Erian, one of the group's official spokesmen, said the management of Egypt's economy needed to be reviewed.

The country could do without the corruption of the Mubarak era, he said.
"But Egypt cannot do without foreign and Arab investment. This will increase and increase because, when the country stabilises into a democracy, there will not be this corruption and this will encourage investors," he said.

The Brotherhood supported free markets, he added, but without "fraud, without monopoly and with real competition". The United States has expressed concerns about "extremist elements" in the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 by an Egyptian teacher, Hassan al-Banna.

Washington is keeping close watch to see what kind of clout it might wield. The Brotherhood forecasts it could win up to 30 percent of a free and fair vote. The Brotherhood was the only real political force to survive Mubarak's three decades of autocratic rule. It has appeared more assertive since he was toppled.

Since then, Erian said the Brotherhood had received requests for meetings from representatives of the governments of Norway, Germany, Sweden, Australia and Switzerland.

"We postponed those meetings and said our concern is continuing the revolution and realising the demands of the people," Erian said. He also slammed what he described as "British arrogance", saying Prime Minister David Cameron had interfered in the country's politics during a visit to Cairo this week.

Cameron did not meet with the Brotherhood during his trip, and British officials said this was to highlight the fact that Islamists were not the only alternative to Mubarak. "Egypt finished with the British occupation 65 years ago," Erian said.

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