The Muslim Brotherhood is treading cautiously in the new Egypt, assuring the military government and fellow Egyptians that it does not want power and trying to dispel fears about its political strength. The target of decades of state oppression, the Brotherhood wants to preserve the freedoms it is enjoying under the new military-led administration that took power from Hosni Mubarak.
So far, signs are encouraging for the Brotherhood: an eight-man judicial council appointed to propose democratic changes to the constitution includes one of its members. But experts say the Islamists remain wary of the military. That partly explains why they have gone out of their way to say they are not seeking power — a reiteration of a position they have long espoused to avoid confrontation with the state.
The Brotherhood has said it will not field a candidate for president and will not contest enough seats to clinch a majority in parliament. The message, experts say, is partly aimed abroad, especially at the United States, which has expressed some concern over the role the Brotherhood might play in the post-Mubarak Egypt.
The Brotherhood might win 25 to 30 percent of the vote in a free and fair election, said Mohammed Habib, a member of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council and its former deputy leader. “The Brotherhood want to reassure the Egyptian people and the Arab and Islamic world that they do not seek power, or want to compete for power, as much as what matters to them is that there is freedom and democracy,” he said.