CAIRO- A senior member of Egypt's ruling party said on Wednesday the Muslim Brotherhood had failed to provide an effective parliamentary opposition, in the latest hint that the Islamists may be sidelined in November elections.
In an interview with Reuters, Ali El Din Hillal, head of media for the National Democratic Party (NDP), dismissed media speculation that the party was tightening its grip in preparation for a successor to President Hosni Mubarak.
The outcome of the parliament vote is being watched to see how much space the authorities give opposition groups. The vote precedes a crucial 2011 presidential election, which has fueled speculation about a possible father-son succession.
Mubarak, 82 who had surgery in Germany in March, has not said whether he will run for a sixth six-year term. Many believe his son Gamal, 46, is being groomed to step in. Both father and son have denied any plans for a succession.
"This media circus is designed to impose an agenda on the party but the NDP will not budge. Our focus now is parliamentary elections," Hillal said.
The Brotherhood, which skirts a ban on religious groups by running candidates in parliament as independents, now controls a fifth of the seats - by the far the biggest opposition bloc - but has said state suppression is likely to cut its presence.
"There are different views about the performance of Brotherhood MPs over the last five years, that they did not meet the required level of effective groups and had not served their districts well," Hillal told Reuters.
"In the end, it is about what voters want and whether their representative can deliver."
It follows comments to local media by NDP secretary-general Safwat el-Sherif, who said he did not expect the Brotherhood to repeat their 2005 success in the forthcoming vote.
The government insists elections are free and fair. But the Brotherhood, other opposition groups and independent observers repeatedly complain that votes are rigged against them.