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 voters. 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 the group. 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 Moussa. Shafiq was disqualified Tuesday after the Islamist-dominated parliament passed a law barring former senior officials from the Mubarak regime from running for office.