March 12, 2011 / 5:27 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Egypt to lift restrictions on political parties

* Opposition have been calling for lifting of curbs

* Muslim Brotherhood among groups planning to form party

(Adds Brotherhood quote, background)

By Marwa Awad

CAIRO, March 12 (Reuters) - Egypt will lift restrictions on forming political parties that choked political life during the rule of President Hosni Mubarak after a March 19 referendum on constitutional amendments, an army source said on Saturday.

Under Mubarak, parties needed the approval of a committee chaired by the head of the upper house of parliament, who was also a leading figure in Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party.

Post-Mubarak presidential and parliamentary elections are being watched for signs of how democratic political life will be after three decades of state oppression, which created a toothless opposition and stifled its activity.

The army, which took power after Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11 by a popular uprising, has dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and mapped a path to parliamentary and presidential elections within six months.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition movement, welcomed the decision and said it would revive political life in Egypt before the two crucial votes.

“This has been a national demand and making it possible is an important step and very much needed to liberate political parties,” senior Brotherhood member Essam Erian said.

The Brotherhood has been waiting for the lifting of restrictions on forming political parties so that it can form its “Freedom and Justice” party.

Erian said there was likely to be a proliferation of political parties when the restrictions were lifted, but that eventually the serious ones would prevail.

Planned constitutional amendments would include a clause stating that once elected, a new president would call on parliament to draft a new constitution. The Brotherhood, long suppressed by Mubarak and his state security, plans to be part of this.

“Egypt’s parties law will be amended after the referendum takes place to allow parties to form simply based on notification,” the army source told Reuters. (Writing and reporting by Marwa Awad; editing by Tim Pearce)

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