A moderate Islamic party outlawed for 15 years was granted official recognition on Saturday by an Egyptian court in a sign of increasing political openness after the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Al-Wasat al-Jadid, or the New Center, was founded in 1996 by activists who split off from the conservative Muslim Brotherhood and sought to create a political movement promoting a tolerant version of Islam with liberal tendencies.
Its attempts to register as an official party were rejected four times since then, most recently in 2009.
In 2007, Human Rights Watch accused Mubarak and his governing National Democratic Party of using the law that governs the formation of political parties to maintain a virtual monopoly over political power in Egypt by denying opponents the right to form parties.
The founder of the newly recognized party, Abu al-Ila Madi, said the ruling by the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court was “a positive fruit of the Jan. 25 revolution of the freedom generation.”
Eighteen days of protests in the heart of Cairo and across the country forced the country’s president of 29 years to step down.
Madi said his party would immediately get to work organizing its membership and opening branches to freely participate in Egypt’s political life.
Mubarak’s party had dominated Egyptian politics and the national parliament. The military rulers who took control of the country after his ouster dissolved the legislature — one of the protesters’ key demands — as a step toward democratic reforms. The parliamentary elections in November were widely criticized as fraudulent.
Several opposition parties had been authorized under Mubarak’s rule, but their representation in parliament was small and they had little influence.
Egypt’s largest and most popular opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, was also outlawed under Mubarak, but ran candidates in parliamentary elections as independents.
There is some concern in Washington and other world capitals that the Muslim Brotherhood, which calls for the formation of an Islamic state in Egypt, could now dramatically increase its influence in Egyptian politics.
Seeking to prove al-Wasat al-Jadid’s more moderate position, Madi said two Coptic Christians and three women were among the party’s 24 top members.
“We will cooperate with all political powers, secular or democratic, to develop the democratic process,” Madi said.