A banner hung in Cairo by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood calling for a "yes" vote on the referendum, seen on March 18, 2011. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/courtesy Reuters)
Leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood are threatening to launch new mass protests if the parliamentary elections are postponed.
The group, which has boycotted many mass protests during past months, insists that they are more than willing to offer “new martyrs” for the cause, if the government does not immediately begin preparations for the parliamentary elections set for November
Hasan ElBrence, a leading member of the group, said that if the government does not open the door for nominations on 27 September for both the parliament and Shura Council (upper house), they will take to the street again.
“In the Brotherhood we were raised on the idea of martyrdom and we are more than happy to offer new martyrs and begin new protests and strikes in Tahrir Square if the will of the people is denied,” ElBrence said during a popular meeting in Alexandria yesterday.
This is the first time since the overthrow of Mubarak that the Brotherhood has come out in direct confrontation with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). For months, since Mubarak's ouster, the Brotherhood has consistently expressed itself fully in support of SCAF, attacking its erstwhile revolutionary allies who were calling for one mass protest following another to ensure the achievement of the revolution's main objectives.
A possibly more serious bone of contention between the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies and the ruling military is the SCAF's intention of issuing yet another Constitutional Declaration, which would include a number of basic principles upon which a future constitution should be based, as well as fundamental guidelines and criteria for the next parliament to use in picking the members of the 100-person Constituent Assembly, to be charged with drawing up the Egyptian constitution.
Many believe that SCAF resorted to this plan out of fear that an Islamist dominated parliament would ensure that the Egyptian constitution would be such as to create a religious rather than a civic state. Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood had expressed itself committed to civic, non-religious state, in line with the consensual position adopted by the Egyptian revolution. Later, and as the Salafists and the Gamaa Islamiya made their presence felt on the political scene, the Brotherhood leadership seemed to shift its position towards a religious state and the application of Islamic Shari'a.
The Brotherhood leadership is convinced that the earlier parliamentary elections are held the greater chance they will have of dominating the parliament, a belief that some political and revolutionary figures claim is more wishful thinking than a realistic assessment of Egyptian post-revolution political realities.