A senior Muslim Brotherhood leader has announced plans to run for president of Egypt. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 59, will run as an independent.

Fotouh is head of the Arab Doctors' Union and sits on the Brotherhood's Shura Council.

His candidacy shows a break with Brotherhood policy. The Muslim Brotherhood had previously promised not to field a candidate in the presidential elections, in an attempt to assuage concerns that Islamists would dominate the next government.

The Brotherhood has distanced itself from Fotouh and warned Thursday that if he does not withdraw his candidacy, he may be asked to leave the organization.

While the Brotherhood will not field a presidential candidate, its Freedom and Justice party plans to run for half of the parliamentary seats. The organization had previously said it would run for just one-third of the seats. Brotherhood officials say they have not changed their policy, but rather, are ensuring they will win one-third of the seats.

A spokesman for Fotouh told Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that he believes Fotouh will be a popular candidate even without Brotherhood support. “He speaks to the frame of reference of the Egyptian people, which is moderate conservatism. None of the other candidates are like that,” said spokesman Ahmed Osama.

Osama said Fotouh's platform, which has not yet been unveiled, will focus on education and development.

Fotouh has been a relatively moderate voice in the Muslim Brotherhood. He advocates ties to the West and increased rights for women and religious minorities. However, Coptic Christians have expressed concern over his candidacy due to his Islamist background.