Magazine article Newsweek International

Mohammad Badie: A Voice in the Government

Magazine article Newsweek International

Mohammad Badie: A Voice in the Government

Article excerpt

Byline: Babak Dehghanpisheh

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is the biggest opposition group running in the country's parliamentary elections this week, but don't expect to see its name on the ballot: the movement is banned and its candidates run as independents. In 2005 the group swept 20 percent of the seats, but a repeat performance seems unlikely. Hundreds of members have been arrested in recent weeks. Mohammad Badie, 67, a trained veterinarian who has spent more than 12 years in jail, was chosen to lead the group at the beginning of the year. He faces strong pressure from outside as well as internal dissent. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Babak Dehghanpisheh in Cairo. Excerpts:

Why did you decide to participate in the elections? The only way to achieve peaceful change is through the ballot box. Because of the bad performance of the National Democratic Party, many things are deteriorating in Egypt. Everybody wants change, and this is the only way to reach people.

How did the members of the movement decide to participate? We do this through an election. Ninety-eight percent agreed to participate, and 2 percent had reservations or said no.

Some analysts say you haven't achieved much in the past five years. When the representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood go to different ministries to ask for services for their constituents, the ministries have instructions not to provide the services because the government is afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will gain popularity. I heard this from one of the ministers directly.

Some think your ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state in Egypt. [Laughing softly] This is an intentionally inaccurate image. We want a civilian state with civilian people--not religious people--but with a Muslim background.

Does the movement have plans for the 2011 presidential election? We will not nominate anyone for the presidential election. …

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