Brotherhood's Morsi seeks to allay fears in post-poll address

Sherif Tarek , Tuesday 29 May 2012

Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi reiterates rights of Christians, women; vows to step down as FJP head, appoint non-Brotherhood VP and PM if elected in next month's runoff

Mohamed Morsi
Presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi speaks during a news conference in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi has sought to allay fears that his victory in next month's runoff poll would lead to the Brotherhood's domination of Egyptian political life.

In a major post-election speech at a Cairo hotel on Tuesday, he promised, if elected president, to work for all segments of Egyptian society, vowing to promote justice, equality and political participation for all.

He also promised to resign as chairman of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the event that he assumed the presidency.

Morsi will compete with Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, in presidential runoffs slated for 16 and 17 June.

Morsi delivered the address amid mounting pressure from secular and liberal forces that have voiced their refusal to support Shafiq but want guarantees from Morsi that the Brotherhood will not monopolise authority if he is elected.

No Brotherhood domination                                 

Morsi later said his vice-president would "definitely be from outside the Brotherhood and the FJP," and might even be a Coptic Christian. He also said Coptic Christians would be offered major positions on his presidential staff.

"The era of the superman is over," he said. "The president cannot have the only say in decision-making as it did under the former regime...The presidential staff will work as a team and will not be dominated by the Brotherhood."

"A coalition government will also be drawn up," Morsi added. "This government would consist of politicians from a variety of groups, not just Islamists or Brotherhood members ... and the prime minister will not be from the Brotherhood or the FJP."

The 60-year-old candidate also downplayed oft-voiced concerns over the fate of Egypt's future constitution.

In March, liberal and leftist MPs withdrew from Egypt's constituent assembly – tasked with drafting a new national charter – to protest the perceived monopolisation of the assembly by Islamist forces. The withdrawals created a major headache, both for Egypt's Islamist-led parliament and the Brotherhood's FJP, which enjoys the largest parliamentary presence.

Shortly afterwards, Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court suspended activities of the constituent assembly, which was elected by members of parliament, because, the court ruled, it violated last year’s constitutional declaration. The debate regarding the assembly's composition was put on hold when the presidential elections got underway.

"I would make sure the next constitution truly reflects all Egyptians," Morsi vowed. "The parliament will establish new criteria for the assembly by reducing the number of MPs sitting on it, and I would work to ensure the assembly is established very soon."

Justice, equality for everyone

Morsi went on to reassure women and Copts about Islamic Law.

"Copts have all the rights of Egyptian citizens; there would be no religious discrimination whatsoever," he said.

"Working women have the right to perform any job they want, whether judge, worker or taxi driver … Also, we would never impose a dress code on them; wearing the veil will remain optional. Forcing women to cover their heads is not stipulated by Islamic Law," he said.

On the woes chronically faced by Egypt's small farmers, he declared: "I'm one of them; I would provide free education and medical care for them as a start ... I would also cancel small farmers' debts."

Morsi also praised the police and the army for securing the ongoing presidential elections, which transpired, for the most part, without incident.

He did not mention the overhaul of the interior ministry, but said, "The status of policemen and officers will remain untouched."

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