Hardline Islamists back Aboul Fotouh for Egypt president (BBC) British Broadcasting Company) By Yolande Knell 30 April 2012 Last updated at 14:34 GMT)
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Egypt´s ultra-conservative Islamist groups have chosen to back Abdul
Moneim Aboul Fotouh in the presidential race, rather than the
candidate of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.
The former jihadist group, Gamaat Islamiya, has announced its support
after the main Salafi party, Nur made its decision at the weekend.
Experts say it is a serious blow for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The development comes as official campaigning for the presidency
Doctor Aboul Fotouh was expelled from the Brotherhood last year after
he announced he would join the contest. At that stage, the mainstream
Islamist movement said it did not plan to field a presidential
candidate but it later reversed the policy.
It has nominated the head of its political party, Mohammed Mursi.
´Crisis for Brotherhood´
The backing for Dr Aboul Fotouh should bring him many of the votes
that took the Salafists, who are highly conservative and draw
inspiration from the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the earliest
Muslims, into second place behind the Brotherhood in last year´s
The small, moderate Islamist party, al-Wasat, has also switched its
support to him.
"This totally alters the political calculus in Egypt today. I think
Mursi´s chances of winning have dropped significantly," says Shadi
Hamid of the Doha Brookings Centre.
"This is a major split in Islamist ranks and a crisis for the Muslim
Brotherhood. They face the prospect of defeat by one of their own
Members of the other Islamist movements say they are backing Dr Aboul
Fotouh, who is seen as more liberal than Mr Mursi, because they feel
he is a stronger candidate but also to stop the Brotherhood
dominating both parliament and the executive branch.
The developments leave the Brotherhood looking weaker as it moves
closer to a confrontation with Egypt´s ruling generals.
It has called for the government to resign or be sacked by the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Parliamentary sessions have been suspended for a week in protest at
Islamists v secularists
Overall, the presidential contest looks set to be dominated by
Islamists and secularists who served under the ousted president Hosni
Besides Dr Aboul Fotouh and Mr Mursi, the former Egyptian foreign
minister and head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, is considered a
There are a total of 13 candidates in the race.
From Monday all can officially display their posters in public and
broadcast messages on television until two days before polls open for
the first round of voting on 23 and 24 May.
However many have already held unofficial rallies and political
banners were put up across the country weeks ago.
There have been many surprises in the run-up to start of campaigning.
Three leading candidates were disqualified from the final list by the
They included Khairat al-Shater, a deputy leader of the Muslim
Brotherhood, who was its original chosen nominee, and the popular
Salafist preacher and lawyer, Hazem Abu Ismail.
Supporters of Mr Abu Ismail have been staging a protest outside the
Defence Ministry in Cairo. One was killed in clashes on Saturday.
Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister appointed by president Mubarak just
days before he was ousted from power, was allowed to stand for the
presidency after the commission went back on an earlier decision to
If the first round of polling does not produce a winner with more
than half the votes, a second round will take place on 16 and 17 June.
Egypt´s military has promised that the vote will be free and fair and
says it will hand over power by the end of June. (© BBC MMXII
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