Salafis divided over whom to support in presidential vote

Divisions have surfaced among Egyptian Salafis over whom to back in the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled to take place on 23 and 24 May.

On Wednesday, one Salafi group, the Salafi Legitimate Authority for Rights and Reform, announced its support for Mohamed Morsy, the presidential candidate fielded by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Such announcements triggered sharp criticism from the members of this group against the leaders of the authority. They accused them of preferring the FJP at the expense of Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, an independent candidate and an ex-leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The members threatened to walk out of the meeting several times.

Emerging as the second biggest political bloc in Parliament after the Brotherhood, Salafis claim broad influence over grassroots activists.

Currently, Islamic presidential candidates are seeking the support of the Salafis, in a move to better their chances in their presidential bids.

Now, there are three Islamist candidates who are seeking to win the country’s biggest political post: Abouel Fotouh, Morsy and Mohamed Selim al-Awa.

Their chances are different. Abouel Fotouh is popular among the educated. In an opinion poll by Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, he came in second after Amr Moussa.

Morsy enjoys the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged as the strongest political force in the country following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

On Monday, the Salafi Dawah met with Abouel Fotouh, who presented them with his electoral platform and ideas.

One day after Abouel Fotouh’s visit, Morsy and Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater visited the Salafi Dawah to present Morsy’s “Renaissance Project.”

Also on Tuesday, Awa visited the Board of Directors of the Salafi Dawah in Alexandria to present his platform and vision for the future of Egypt.

The Salafi Dawah has yet to declare which presidential candidate it will support in the upcoming presidential election.

The meetings were attended by a number of Salafi Dawah leaders, including Yasser Borhamy, Abdel Moneim al-Shahat, and Mahmoud Abdel Hamid.

The Salafi Front on Wednesday announced its unanimous support for Abouel Fotouh. “He is the best Islamist candidate,” said Khaled Saeed, spokesman of the front. “And he enjoys popular consensus.”

Saeed added that Morsy has no popular support. “He only has that of the Muslim Brotherhood, which many other political forces differ with,” he said, calling on the Islamists to support Abouel Fotouh so as not to split their votes.

As for the biggest political Salafi group, the Nour Party, Mohamed Nour, spokesman for the Party, said that Nour is not obliged to support Morsy. “We will choose one of those two candidates on Sunday,” he said, renewing the Salafi initiative that called on all Islamist forces to stand behind one candidate for all of them.

Gamal al-Marakby, member of the Salafi Scholars Shura Council, said the council is meeting soon to choose a candidate. “He will be one who is able to apply the Islamic Sharia and develop the country economically and politically,” he said.

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