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Senior leaders of the Salafi movement met with Islamic preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail Tuesday to convince him to drop his bid for president in favor of another Islamist candidate.
Abu Ismail left the meeting angrily, according to sources informed of the meeting.
In the five-hour meeting, held at the Nour Party’s Alexandria office, the leaders told Abu Ismail he should bow out of the race if he does not win the support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Nour Party and Jama’a al-Islamiya to avoid splitting votes between Islamist candidates.
The sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the Salafi movement asked Abu Ismail to step aside for the FJP’s newly named nominee Khairat al-Shater, and in return be named the latter’s vice president.
Sheikh Gamal Saber, Abu Ismail’s campaign coordinator, said the meeting falsely aimed to convince Salafis that Abu Ismail lacks the support of Islamist political groups.
“Abu Ismail will not leave the race for the sake of another candidate, and will not let down thousands of his supporters,” Saber said. “If anybody should bow out, that would be Shater, whose reasons for running remain vague.”
Saber warned the Nour Party that its failure to back Abu Ismail will result in its members collectively resigning, noting that the party had achieved its parliamentary success due to the support of Salafis who have recently joined Abu Ismail’s campaign.
However, Nour Party spokesperson Mohamed Nour denied reports that the meeting aimed to press Abu Ismail to give up his nomination for Shater. He told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the meeting attempted to find a way to unite voters around one Islamist candidate.
So far, four prominent Islamists are front-runners for the presidential election slated to take place 23 and 24 May. In addition to Abu Ismail and Shater, lawyer Mohamed Selim al-Awa and former Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh are also in the race.
On Saturday, the Brotherhood went back on its earlier pledge to not field a presidential candidate by announcing Shater’s nomination, who resigned as the group’s deputy supreme guide beforehand, as its nominee. While some observers believe the move will further divide Islamist-oriented voters, others hint that the Brotherhood made the decision in response to Abu Ismail’s increasing popularity.
Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm