CAIRO - In a policy U-turn, the Muslim Brotherhood has named its deputy leader Khairat Al-Shater to run for Egypt's presidency, a move seen by analysts as dangerous for the influential group.
"Egypt now needs a candidate from among us who can take on the responsibility," Mohammed Mursi, the head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told a press conference cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Brotherhood's Shura Council picked up Shater, 61, to run in Egypt's first election since Hosni Mubarak's fall last year.
Shater's nomination was backed by 56 members of the 108-seat council.
"Those who went against the candidacy of Shater at first changed their minds and supported him afterwards," said Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie.
Shater, a professor of engineering and business tycoon, will be facing a host of candidates, including former Arab League chief Amr Mussa and former Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh.
The Muslim Brotherhood previously said it did not want one of its members to run for Egypt's presidency.
"We do not have the desire to monopolize power," Mursi said, denying that Shater's candidacy was a "change of principles".
"Egypt has problems that have not been solved," Mursi said, listing among them fuel shortages, security problems and petrol shortages.
"All this has pushed us towards the executive authority," he said.
Shater is one of the Brotherhood's three deputy leaders and a businessman who runs a computer firm.
He has played a key role in the Brotherhood's economic policy and met the International Monetary Fund team which is negotiating a $3.2 billion loan facility with the government.
The IMF has said it wants broad political backing for the deal.
Like many members of the Brotherhood that was banned under Mubarak, Shater spent years in and out of jail. He was most recently freed shortly after Mubarak was toppled.
Jail terms can bar access to elected office for a period but the Brotherhood said this would not derail his candidacy.
"When Shater's name was considered, our lawyers said there is no legal obstacle facing his candidacy," Badie said.
The Brotherhood's decision to field a candidate drew fire from Egypt's liberals.
"The truth is that they are proving each day that power is their only goal," Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, told CBC TV.
He said the Brotherhood appeared to have acted when it found "that they can't control the government".
The Brotherhood has become increasingly critical of the army-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri and of the army for continuing to support the cabinet.
The group wants the cabinet to quit and to lead the formation of a new government, based on their dominance of parliament. But the army has rejected this.
Under the existing constitution, the ruling army or the next president will have the power to form the cabinet.
A new constitution is unlikely to be agreed until after the next president is in place, leaving those powers with the presidential office for now.
Analysts believe the Brotherhood's decision to name a presidential candidate is potentially dangerous for the group.
"Everything is risky for them now," Issandr El Amrani, a prominent Cairo-based blogger and analyst, told The Washington Post."I suspect they decided to do this because they want to maximize their ability to govern and were unable to find either a consensus candidate or a trusted proxy."