CAIRO: Egypt s Muslim Brotherhood expects the government to intensify a crackdown on the opposition movement to prepare a power transfer to President Hosni Mubarak s son, the group s deputy leader said on Monday.
Mohammed Habib said a power transfer from Mubarak, 78, to leading ruling party politician Gamal Mubarak could happen in less than a year. The matter will not go on for more than a year … Perhaps less than a year, he says. Gamal has repeatedly said he has neither the desire or intention to run for the post held by his father since 1981. But he is one of the most influential figures in the ruling National Democratic Party and his growing public profile leads analysts to believe he would be the NDP s presidential candidate if Mubarak were to step down. Under current rules on who can stand for president, only the NDP has enough members in both houses of parliament and local councils to be able to field a candidate. The Brotherhood is by far Egypt s strongest opposition force but is legally banned. Members are frequently arrested on charges of belonging to the group. Police have rounded up hundreds of Brotherhood activists this year. Dozens of secular opposition protesters have also been jailed in a crackdown on political freedoms in the Arab world s most populous country. Habib said 661 Brotherhood activists were still in jail. They are all leading members, mid-level, below mid-level and top leaders. The aim is to direct painful blows to the group … to reduce its activism, he says. The Brotherhood only backs constitutional means in its opposition to the government. The government, or the regime, is trying to send a message to the Brotherhood so that they reduce their activities, tone down their statements, Habib says. This requires more restrictions, pursuits, jailing, perhaps military tribunals, so that the atmosphere is prepared and the stage is set for the inheritance of power scenario, he says. But the Brotherhood are continuing on their path and this will definitely lead to more oppression and detentions, he adds. The Brotherhood is opposed to the idea of Gamal taking over. Fielding candidates as independents, the Brotherhood won nearly a fifth of the seats in parliament last year, its strongest ever showing. But it has not been able to impede the passage of government legislation because the NDP holds more than two-thirds of the seats.