DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and J. DAVID GOODMANCAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamic group that has long constituted Egypt’s main political opposition, said Tuesday that it would apply to become an official political party as soon as the necessary changes were made to the Egyptian Constitution.
Those changes, which are expected to establish a democratic process in advance of elections in six months, had been widely anticipated in the aftermath of the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
The ousted leader saw the Brotherhood as a chief political rival and initiated the renewal of a crackdown since 2005, when the group ran independent candidates in parliamentary elections and won many races.
The current Constitution bars any political party based on a religious identity, a provision that precluded the Brotherhood from forming a legally recognized party.
In a sign of the Brotherhood’s increasing official legitimacy, the military government said Tuesday that a panel of experts drawing up changes to the Constitution over the next 10 days would include one member from the banned group.
The Brotherhood strongly reaffirmed its commitment to rejoining the political process, saying in a statement released Tuesday on its Web site that it “envisions the establishment of a democratic, civil state that draws on universal measures of freedom and justice, with central Islamic values serving all Egyptians regardless of color, creed, political trend or religion.”
Banned since 1954, the Brotherhood has for more than a decade operated as a de facto political party, running independent candidates who all used the same slogans and the same platform and all caucused together. In the 2005 elections, the Brotherhood won 88 seats in Parliament, or about 20 percent of the total, but the Mubarak government pushed the group out of the country’s most recent vote last fall, in elections that were widely seen as fraudulent.
The constitutional amendments to be drawn up in the coming days are widely expected to include broadening the terms of eligibility for political participation, including allowing the Brotherhood to compete under its own name as a party.
The Brotherhood reported on its Web site on Tuesday that “once an official legitimate committee has been formed, it will apply to become an official party.”
But leaders of the group have said they would not field a presidential candidate in this year’s election to replace Mr. Mubarak. “It’s time for solidarityl it’s time for unity; in my opinion we need a national consensus,” Essam el-Erian, a senior leader of the Brotherhood, told Reuters, explaining why it would not seek the presidency this year.