CAIRO - Following a decision to disqualify its candidate from Egypt's presidential election, the Muslim Brotherhood has thrown its weight behind its backup contender Mohamed Mursi for the country's top post.
"The group and party announce they are continuing in the competition for the post of the head state with their candidate Dr. Mohamed Mursi," the Brotherhood said in a statement cited by Reuters.
The move followed a decision by a commission overseeing Egypt's presidential election to ban ten contenders from the May polls, including the Brotherhood's candidate Khairat Al-Shater.
Shater had been disqualified because of a past criminal conviction.Like many other Brotherhood leaders, he had spent time behind bars for his association with a group that was officially outlawed under deposed president Hosni Mubarak.
Shater, a millionaire businessman, believes that his disqualification showed elements of the old guard were still running Egypt.
"Our peaceful struggle until the revolution is complete," he said, calling on supporters to take part in a Tahrir Square protest on Friday in support of the revolution's aims.
Among those disqualified were also former spy chief Omar Suleiman and Salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail.
Suleiman, Mubarak's deputy in his last days in power, had been ruled out because he had too few of the voter endorsements candidates were required to present.
The commission said he had been lacking just 31 endorsements of in one province, Assiut.
Abu-Ismail was ruled out because his mother held US citizenship, though he has fiercely denied this.
The Salafi candidate called for a sit-in outside the offices of the electoral commission in Cairo, where several hundred of his followers gathered. Some of them scuffled with military police guarding the building.
"We are exposed to a conspiracy by parties that you cannot imagine. What is happening inside the committee is treachery to create divisions," Abu Ismail told supporters at the building.
But analysts believe that Mursi, the leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, has weak chances to win the vote.
"Mursi was the backup for a reason," Shadi Hamid, an expert on the Brotherhood, told Reuters.
"Shater was the only one among them who looked remotely presidential. It's a big blow to the Brotherhood."
Since he was fielded by the Brotherhood last month, Shater had been stressing his Islamist credentials on his few days on the campaign trail.
"What made Shater a promising candidate was that he could unite the Islamist factions, he could bring the Salafis on board, Hamid said.
With Mursi it will be more challenging but it is still possible."
Analysts opine votes of the Brotherhood members will not necessarily go to Mursi, but rather to other candidates as former Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh.
"He will get many of the votes that were going to go to Shater and Abu Ismail as many will not be convinced by Mursi, who has been away from the Egyptian media in the last period," Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political scientist, told Reuters.
Abul-Futuh, 60, was part of a moderate reform wing in the Brotherhood until his expulsion.
His candidacy has won the approval of prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi.
A medical doctor, Abul-Futuh has also started to win support outside the Islamist movement among secular-minded Egyptians looking for someone committed to democratic reform.
Analysts also think that former foreign minister and frontrunner Amr Mussa will also benefit from the candidate disqualifications."The disqualifications...are certainly to the benefit of Amr Mussa and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh who were listed as front-runners before the sudden and last minute entrances of Suleiman and shatter to the race," said Mustapha Al-Sayyid, a political science professor at Cairo University.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net