Egyptian Candidate Promises Islamic Veto

Egypt's leading presidential candidates are locked in a 'more Islamic than thou' battle aimed at winning hardliner votes.

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Gabe Kahn,

Egyptian Parliament
Egyptian Parliament

The presidential hopeful of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has reportedly promised to give Islamic clerics power to review legislation to ensure it is in line with Islamic law.

According to al-Arabiya, Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater is trying to avert a split in the votes of religious conservatives in next month's presidential election.

The Brotherhood is Egypt's strongest fundamentalist group, but several other Islamists are running in the vote - particularly Salafi-hardliner favored Hazem Abu Ismail.

El-Shater met Tuesday with a panel of Salafi scholars and clerics, seeking their support

The group, called the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, said el-Shater promised he would form a council of clerics to review legislation to ensure it adheres to Islamic Shariah law, if elected.

In 2007, when the Brotherhood was still a banned opposition movement, it floated a political platform that included a similar provision, demanding that parliament consult with a religious council of clerics in legislation.

The proposal was met with a storm of condemnation at the time, and the Brotherhood backed down.

In their campaign for Egypt's first post-Mubarak parliament elections late last year, the platform of the Brotherhood's political party made no mention of the idea.

Seeking to allay fears of liberal Egyptians, Brotherhood leaders have insisted throughout the campaign that implementing Shariah law in Egypt is not their immediate priority. Salafis, however, have been more assertive in demanding Shariah law.

"El-Shater wants to give Salafi clerics what they want as part of the deal that is being cooked to secure the votes of salafis," Tharwat el-Kherbawi, a researcher who is a former member of the Brotherhood, told Gulf News.

He compared the religious council proposal to Iran's system of clerical "guardians" over the elected government.

The Brotherhood hold just under half the seats in parliament, making them the biggest bloc, followed by the Salafis, who won another 20 percent.