'Military head Tantawi planning cabinet reshuffle'

Salafis back former top Muslim Brotherhood official for president.

April 30, 2012 04:12
2 minute read.
Egypt's Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi

Tantawi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Egypt’s ruling military council is planning a cabinet reshuffle aimed at bringing Islamists into the government, sources told the staterun al-Ahram news website on Sunday.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the council’s head, will present Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri with a reshuffle proposal that “will include a group of ministers representing the Islamists and other political and party forces in the parliament,” the sources told al-Ahram.

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Islamists emerged as the biggest winners in post-revolution Egypt, but the 84-yearold Muslim Brotherhood has seen its victories dampened by the rise of ultra-hard-line Salafis. The Salafi Da’wa (or “Call”), an umbrella organization led by the Nour party that represents Egypt’s Salafi groups, announced late Saturday night that it would back a former top Muslim Brotherhood official for president.

The decision to support Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh strikes a blow to the Brotherhood’s prospects of filling the presidency with its own candidate, Mohamed Mursi.

“The Salafi Call has decided by majority vote to back Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh in the presidential elections,” said spokesman Yasser Borhamy. “The Nour Party, the political wing of the Salafi Call, has also voted to back Abol Fotouh.”

The spokesman said the Salafis would, however, back Mursi should he, and not Abol Fotouh, make it to the second round of voting.

The Nour party garnered roughly a quarter of the votes in Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections, second only to the Brotherhood, which took around half.

Some 53 million Egyptians will be eligible to vote on May 23-24 in a first round of balloting. Voting is expected to be followed by a June runoff between the top two candidates, and the ruling military council is due to hand over power on July 1. Polls show Abol Fouth, Morsi and former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa as the race’s three frontrunners.

Abol Fotouh, a member of the Brotherhood for four decades, was expelled from the movement in June after announcing that he would run for president in defiance of the party’s pledge not to field a candidate to replace deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.

Last month, the Brotherhood reversed its decision, appointing longtime financier Khairat al-Shater as its main contender, although earlier this month, Shater’s candidacy was annulled – along with those of Mubarak’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and the Salafist Hazem Saleh Abu Ismail – and the Brotherhood replaced him with the lesser known, less charismatic Mursi.

“We see him as the most appropriate person for this period,” Muhammad Nour, a spokesman for the Nour Party, said Saturday of Abol Fotouh. “He does not belong to any party and he adheres to principles and the project of Islamic civilization to a great extent.”

“We will only pick someone who is the best for leading Egypt, even if we disagree with him in some ideological matters,” Nour added without elaborating.

Abol Fotouh, 60, is traditional enough to win the support of Egypt’s most hard-line Islamists, but has consciously cultivated an image of a reformist to win the backing of some liberals and leftists.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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