Egyptian presidential race heats up

The Muslim Brotherhood has announced that it is to nominate a candidate, Khairat al-Shater, in Egypt’s upcoming presidential election in late May.

Until the end of March the party had refused to field a candidate, and its decision to run Shater, a 61 year-old millionaire financier, risks splitting the Islamist vote.

Shater will compete against the popular Salafist, Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail who is backed by the ultra-conservative Salafi al-Nour party. Abu-Ismail is a preacher and lawyer who supports the implementation of Sharia Law. A third Islamist in the race is physician and former Muslim Brotherhood member, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, already dominates parliament and the assembly charged with writing Egypt's new constitution.

The leading secular candidate is 75 year-old Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister who resigned his post as chief of the Arab League in mid-2011 to join the presidential race. There is also conjecture in Cairo that Mubarak's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, may declare his candidacy.

Meanwhile Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has announced its withdrawl from talks on drafting the new constitution, stating that Islamist domination had rendered its participation “pointless”.