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Brotherhood Says Salafi Backing for Rival Boosts Egypt

Egyptian Presidential Hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh
Egyptian presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, seen here, has the backing of 75 percent of Egypt’s largest Salafi bloc, al-Nour, according to a statement on the group's website. Photographer: Amro Maraghi/AFP/Getty Images

The Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential hopeful said the endorsement of his chief Islamist rival by Egypt’s largest Salafi bloc is good for the country’s democratic efforts.

Mohamed Mursi, the head of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said al-Nour’s backing of Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh “enriches the democratic process and shows that society is not divided on the basis of who’s Islamist and who’s non-Islamist,” according to an e-mailed statement today from the FJP, which holds the largest bloc of seats in parliament’s lower house.

Islamist groups have been divided over which candidate to support in the presidential elections that begin on May 23. Aboul-Fotouh is seen as one of the strong contenders in the race that includes 12 others, including the former secretary general of the Arab League, Amre Moussa, and Ahmed Shafik, who briefly served as ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Al-Nour said in a statement on its website that Aboul-Fotouh won the backing of 75 percent of its leadership. The move came days after Mursi won the backing of another Salafi movement. Salafis follow an austere interpretation of Islam.

Aboul-Fotouh has been courting secularists, Coptic Christians and others in a bid to cast himself as a candidate for all Egyptians, albeit one with Islamist credentials. He fell out with the Brotherhood after declaring his candidacy at a time when the group’s leadership said they were not going to field a nominee for the vote.

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