By Heba Fahmy and Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) presented to the political parties committee on Wednesday the necessary documents to establish the Freedom and Justice Party which includes 978 female members and 93 Copts.
The party’s founding papers include lists of its founding members, its program and bylaws.
“The party has 8,821 founding members across Egypt’s 27 governorates,” Saad El-Katatny, secretary general and cofounder of the party told the press.
It is expected to start operating officially on June 17, if no objections are filed against it.
“Now we will begin establishing a popular base for the party in governorates and it will be an effective party in one month,” El-Katatny said.
Coptic thinker Rafiq Habib was elected as the party’s vice president.
El-Katatny said Habib wasn’t chosen merely because he was a Christian, but because his ideas and values could benefit and add to the party.
Habib told Daily News Egypt that he is convinced with the party’s political program and was a founding member of the party before he became vice president.
The party’s political program is based on the demands of the January 25 Revolution, including the establishment of state institutions to serve the people, according to Ikhwan online.
Habib added that the party included many Copts and their representation in the party’s leadership was a positive phenomenon.
“The existence of Copts in the party proves that the MB commits to their word and that Copts are partners in this country,” El-Katatny said.
Habib said that he was widely criticized by Egypt’s Coptic community for joining a party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“However, I want to demonstrate that Christians aren’t separate from the Muslim or Arab culture which is embedded in Egyptian culture,” Habib said. “On the contrary, we helped build it.”
He explained that Copts have lately started to believe that the Muslim culture and civilization ceased to serve them or accommodate their needs. However, that wasn’t the case before the 1952 Revolution, he added.
Analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah, a researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, speculated that the participation of Copts in the party was merely a symbolic participation that wouldn’t have any real effect on the party’s decisions.
“The Coptic members are like flowers on the Brotherhood’s jacket,” Abdel Fattah told DNE. “They’re just for appearance’s sake.”
El-Katatny said the Freedom and Justice Party is a civil party with an Islamic reference, in line with article two of Egypt’s constitution, which states that Islam is the religion of the state and principles of Islamic jurisprudence are one of the sources of legislation.
The group stressed that it was not a theocratic traditional religious party.
Abdel Fattah said that the party included very moderate members including Deputy Chairman Essam El-Erian, who could establish a true civilian party independent from the group.
“It’s up to the party to prove through its political program, behavior and actions in the political arena in the coming period whether it will be a true civil party or just a facade for an Islamic party,” he said.
The group said that the new party will enjoy complete financial and administrative independence from the Muslim Brotherhood group but will “coordinate” with it.
“The group is considered the social foundation supporting the political party,” Habib said.
“However the party has its own administration, organization and leadership independent and separate from the group,” he added.
On May 1, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shoura Council said the party will contest 45-50 percent of seats in the upcoming People’s Assembly elections slated for September, in the hopes of garnering about 30 percent of the seats.
The group repeatedly stated that it will not field a candidate for the presidential elections nor support members who run as independents.
The Brotherhood was legally banned before the revolt which overthrew President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11.
In the past, the group registered its parliamentary candidates as independents to circumvent a ban on the group in particular and religious parties in general.
Abdel Fattah said that there was an unpublicized understanding between the Brotherhood and the current government, allowing the group to establish a political party and practice politics freely.