Some analysts say the group has evolved to become more moderate and embrace democratic and liberal principles such as transparency and accountability. Analysts Samer Shehata and Joshua Stacher say in a 2006 Middle East Report that the group "settled on a strategy of political participation." Brotherhood-affiliated candidates first participated in local and parliamentary elections as independents in 1984, and in 2005, its candidates won 88 seats, or 20 percent of the legislature.
Political Challenges Since the Revolution
Following the 2011 political shakeup in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood emerged as a dominant political force, surpassing most other political parties in terms of organization and outreach. Its Freedom and Justice Party won 47 percent of the seats (al-Jazeera) in the lower house of parliament in January 2012, and in June 2012, the party's candidate took the presidency.
Yet these wins have been marred by a number of power struggles with the judiciary and the military. In June 2012, the country's Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved parliament, saying the rules, under which a third of the parliament candidates contested, were unconstitutional, making the entire body's makeup invalid. The court also revoked a law that would have barred former regime officials (Telegraph) from holding office, which allowed Mubarak's former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, to remain in a presidential runoff against the brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Morsi.
By late November 2012, as the court was poised to rule on whether the upper house of parliament was valid, Morsi announced an emergency decree to exempt his decisions from judicial oversight, setting off widespread protests.
At the center of this struggle has been the effort to rewrite the country's constitution (WashPost). Created before the lower house was disbanded, the Constituent Assembly is largely composed of members of the brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist al-Nour Party. Morsi said his decreed powers were needed to protect the assembly from being disbanded by the court. But critics say the draft constitution would accord sweeping power to the president as well as weaken human rights, freedom of worship, and protections for women.
The assembly approved the draft on November 29 (AP), despite significant opposition. The next step is a countrywide referendum. The court was expected to rule by early December 2012 on whether the assembly is valid, but it shelved the matter after receiving what it said was "psychological pressure" (EuroNews).
An Islamic State?
Following the 2011 revolution, the specter of the 1979 Iranian revolution loomed large for many in the West who have long feared an Islamist regime in Egypt. CFR's Steven Cook notes how Mubarak has used the organization as his bogeyman for three decades to "stoke the fears of successive American administrations and, in turn, secure Washington's generous diplomatic, political, and financial support." Israeli leaders too, feared a replay of 1979.
Establishing an Islamic state based on sharia is at the center of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology, both in Egypt and among the group's many offshoots abroad. But the brotherhood in Egypt has often said it is committed to gradual and peaceful Islamization and only with the consensus of Egypt's citizens. In recent times, some leaders have dismissed the idea of an Islamic state and expressed commitment to work with other secular and liberal parties.
However, human-rights advocates and secular political opponents have raised concerns about the recently drafted constitution, which some argue is an attempt at the creation of a religious state. "If this constitution passes, it will be the first Egyptian constitution that adopts a specific religious doctrine for the state," writes Ragab Saad of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, adding that some provisions could allow for "instituting authoritarianism in the name of religion."