Egypt Islamic body backs Brotherhood candidate (AP) Associated Press) By SARAH EL DEEB CAIRO, EGYPT 04/25/12 5:53 pm ET)
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CAIRO – A panel of fundamentalist Islamic clerics on Wednesday
endorsed the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood for president of
Egypt, an attempt to prevent a split of the conservative Muslim
In another twist, Egypt´s election commission late Wednesday
reinstated a candidate, a former regime official it disqualified just
a day earlier, scrambling the projected voting even more.
The ultraconservative endorsement boosted the Brotherhood candidate,
Mohammed Morsi, who faces competition in next month´s election from a
more moderate Islamist, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who broke ranks with
Support for Morsi came from the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights
and Reform, a panel of clerics mostly from the ultraconservative
Salafis and new Islamist parties, but also including a Brotherhood
member. The decision was announced at a news conference in Cairo.
Despite the official unity, the presence of two strong Islamist
candidates raised the possibility that the religious vote could be
split, creating fierce competition with secular figures.
One is former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who is popular among many
who fear a dominant Islamist influence.
In a surprise move, Egypt´s election commission reinstated another
secular candidate who could split that sector of the vote — deposed
leader Hosni Mubarak´s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.
Shafiq is popular among supporters of Mubarak and also Egyptians who
fear the strength of the Islamists. He could compete for voters with
Shafiq was disqualified Tuesday after the Islamist-dominated
parliament passed a law barring former senior officials from the
Mubarak regime from running for office.
On Wednesday, Shafiq appealed the disqualification, challenging the
constitutionality of the law that banned him. Shafiq argued the law
was passed after he applied to run, Egypt´s official news agency
reported. The commission referred the law to the constitutional
court, and then it reinstated Shafiq.
The race has already seen a series of dramatic turns, with major
candidates suddenly entering and just as fast exiting the race,
mostly through decisions by the commission. It has vetoed 10
candidates on technical grounds, including the two strongest
Islamists and Mubarak´s onetime intelligence chief.
Islamists — the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafi
groups — have emerged as an important power brokers in Egypt after
the ouster of Mubarak last year. Under his reign, the Brotherhood was
outlawed, and the Salafis were not active politically. Together they
now have a large majority in parliament and wield considerable power
in the society.
The endorsement by the ultraconservative clerics Wednesday boosts
Morsi´s chances by adding a strong Salafi voice to his backing from
Even so, the decision likely won´t prevent a split of the Islamist
vote. Some Salafis fear the Brotherhood´s strong organization and
worry about its tendencies to monopolize power. They are likely to
The endorsement Wednesday "will improve (Morsi´s) position in the
race," said Khalil al-Anani, an Islamist groups expert. "But he will
not get the majority of the Salafi votes."
Morsi was the Brotherhood´s second choice as a candidate. Its top
strategist and deputy leader, Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified by
the election commission because of a past imprisonment.
Morsi was seen as a weaker candidate who may not be able to rally
enough Islamists behind him.
Another influential group of clerics is expected to announce its
decision on who it will endorse for the race in the coming days. The
group, an even more conservative set of Salafi clerics, is more
concerned with ideological purity than with politics. They have a
more grass roots following, but it was unclear how many voters the
Salafis will carry over from parliamentary elections, and how they
will make their choices in the race for president.
The first round of elections is set for May 23-24. If no one wins a
majority, a runoff will be held in June. (© 2012 The Associated Press
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