FEATURE-Egypt's Brotherhood plunges into political maelstrom

Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:49pm GMT

* Brotherhood was once main opposition to Mubarak

* Now vies with liberal and other Islamist parties

* Leaders say aim to head coalition in parliament

By Shaimaa Fayed

CAIRO, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Under former leader Hosni Mubarak, election season for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood often meant arrests, beatings and pitched battles with riot police at polling stations.

In the new Egypt, the once-banned Islamist group faces very different challenges as it gears up for the start on Monday of the first free polls since Mubarak was deposed in February.

Hoping to gain a sizeable slice of seats in parliament, the group has cautiously avoided friction with the ruling military council, refusing to support this week's protests in Tahrir Square demanding the army immediately hand power to civilians.

This has strengthened perceptions that its main concern is to ensure that nothing disrupts its election chances, fuelling anger among protesters. A top Brotherhood leader was forced out of Tahrir on Monday when he tried to visit the square.

"Their eye is on the elections and nothing else. They just want political gains," said one protester, shouting at another demonstrator who said he belonged to the Brotherhood's newly formed political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).   Continued...

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