Presidential candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Khairat al-Shater
The Muslim Brotherhood candidate for Egypt's presidency was cheered on by supporters on Thursday when he registered to run in an election where his main rivals will be other Islamists and candidates who served under the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, reports Reuters.
Khairat al-Shater, 61, a millionaire businessman and leading strategist in the Brotherhood, was named as its candidate last week in a policy reversal by the group that previously pledged it would not participate.
The Brotherhood's broad grass-roots network, built over decades, ensures Shater is a frontrunner, although he has yet to launch his campaign. "The people want Shater for president," the group of about 2,000 supporters chanted. Some lit fireworks.
"This is a historical day for Egypt. Our earlier decision not to field a candidate was for Egypt and its protection. Today, our decision to field a candidate is also for Egypt's benefit and out of a sense of responsibility" Saad Husseini, a member of the Brotherhood's party, told reporters.
Shater's bid for the presidency risks splitting the Islamist vote between him, a candidate who follows the stricter Salafi interpretation of Islam and another contender with more moderate views who was expelled from the Brotherhood over his decision to run before the group changed tack on fielding a candidate.
That could hand the advantage to two other main contenders: Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League who had also served as Mubarak's foreign minister in the 1990s, and Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, who, like the ex-president, was once in charge of the air force.
In a poll researched in March, just before Shater was named as a candidate, Moussa was frontrunner with the Salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail in second place, and Shafiq third. Islamists already dominated parliament.
Abu Ismail's campaign said after Shater was nominated that it would make their candidate "more popular".
But his campaign has also had to fend off accusations that his late mother was a U.S. citizen, which would disqualify him from a race that stipulates both parents must be only Egyptian, with no dual citizenship.
The website of state-run Al-Ahram newspaper on Thursday cited the head of the Higher Presidential Election Commission as saying it had received a letter from the Interior Ministry that said Abu Ismail's mother had travelled using an American passport three times in the five months before she died in 2010.
Campaign manager, Mohamed Nasr said Abu Ismail had filed a lawsuit that would force the Interior Ministry or the commission to show she had only Egyptian nationality, adding the media talk was "entirely fake".
The door for nominations closes on Sunday with any challenges to nominees reviewed after that. About 1,000 people have take documents to register to run. The first round of voting is May 23-24, followed by a second round on June 16-17.
Fears that Shater's candidacy could hand power to those outside the Islamist camp has prompted some groups to call for a single Islamist candidate to run and for others to step aside. None of the main contenders have yet indicated they would.
The rise of Islamists is being closely watched in the West, long wary of their influence in Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel and recipient of $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. But U.S. and other officials have lined up to meet Brotherhood officials, including Shater.