The Muslim Brotherhood may be starting to splinter

Just three months before parliamentary elections, the group is facing dissension within its ranks, as reformers push for a more open system of choosing leaders and political candidates. The Brotherhood’s leadership appeared to be dragged reluctantly into the mass protests that forced Mubarak from office, and the young members who joined the uprising say the the group is still too slow to react to the sentiments of the Egyptian masses.

Amid those strains, some within the movement who have been calling for change are slowly splitting off from the organization’s sanctioned Freedom and Justice Party and forming their own more inclusive political parties. The result could splinter the Muslim Brotherhood’s voter base and weaken its representation in the next parliament…

The group has retaliated against the breakaway forces, and this week expelled five youth members from the larger social and religious organization for forming a new party, according to Islam Lotfy, who said he was among those who were thrown out. The expulsions were widely reported, but a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan, said Wednesday that they were under review but had not been implemented.

Last month, the leadership of the Brotherhood expelled Abdel Moneim Abou el Fatouh, a leading reformer inside the organization and the respected head of the Arab Medical Union, for putting himself forward as a presidential candidate. The Brotherhood has said it plans to field candidates for 30 to 50 percent of parliamentary seats. But, in an apparent acknowledgment of concerns that it could wield too much power in a post-Mubarak Egypt, the movement’s leaders have said they do not seek to rule the country and will not field a candidate for the country’s top office.