(REUTERS – March 03) Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood joined forces with other Islamists on Friday (March 2) to establish a new political party that is set to be a leading player in the country’s first elections since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
Islamist and secular parties will vie in June elections for seats in a national assembly that will draft a new constitution for the North African country.
Political analysts say Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood is likely to emerge as the most organised political force and a leading player in the oil-exporting country where Islamists, like all dissidents, were harshly suppressed for 42 years.
Lamine Belhadj, who heads the committee that is working to set up the new party, told Reuters at a conference on Friday it would bring together Islamists of different stripes.
“This is the founding conference of a national, civil party with an Islamic frame of reference. It is being established by the Muslim Brotherhood and many independents who are not affiliated with any Islamic organisations,” Belhadi said.
Belhadj, a senior official in the National Transitional Council (NTC) and a member of the commission responsible for organising the elections, said the new party had yet to be named and its leaders had not been chosen as consultations were under way between the Brotherhood and other groups.
Abdullah Shamia, an economics professor and member of the Brotherhood since its days as an underground organisation, said the new party would be independent.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a broader religious, charitable and social movement, would continue its work separately from the political party.
“This is not a religious party, please make the distinction between religious and a civil party – a party of civil liberties which speaks about freedom of speech and economic freedom and speaks about the devolution of powers. This is not a religious party,” Shamia said.
Post-uprising elections have already brought Islamists into government in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco since October and they are likely to perform well in Libya, a socially conservative country where alcohol was already banned before the revolution.