The Muslim Brotherhood, the popular Islamic movement long banned from politics by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, announced Saturday that it has formed a political party.
"This party will be independent from the Brotherhood but will coordinate with it," Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood's secretary-general, said at a news conference announcing the formation of the Freedom and Justice party.
Mohamed Morsy, a member of the Brotherhood's politburo who will lead the new party, quickly moved to allay fears that it would be dominated by religious ideology and Islamic conservatism: "The party will not be Islamist in the old understanding," he said.
The Brotherhood said the new party would put forward candidates in parliamentary elections scheduled for September. The group has already said that it would not field a candidate in the presidential election, which is expected two months after the new parliament is selected.
Mubarak's regime often referred to the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization that threatened the country's democracy. But it has long had widespread appeal for its grass-roots social programs.
In 2005, with its members running as independents, the Brotherhood stunned the nation by winning 20% of the seats in parliament. But in elections last year, its members won only one seat in balloting widely regarded as having been rigged by Mubarak's ruling party.
Hassan is a news assistant in The Times' Cairo bureau.