Egypt hardline Islamist party heals rift, for now



Cairo: Leaders of Egypt's largest ultraconservative Islamist party have put aside their differences, settling at least temporarily a leadership dispute that threatened to break up the country's second-largest political bloc, spokesmen said on Saturday.

The Al-Nour Party emerged from nowhere following Egypt's 2011 uprising to take 25 per cent of the seats in last year's parliamentary elections, trailing only the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's best-organised political force.

But a schism erupted last month after some of Al-Nour's political leaders tried to shake off the control of clerics.

At the heart of the feud is who should control the party, a dispute that is symptomatic of Islamist politics as the ultraconservative movement struggles to reconcile democratic maneuvering with religious ideology.

The issue has split Al-Nour into two rival camps, one of which is led by the party's founder and chief, Emad Abdel-Ghafour, who advocates separating the party from the movement's main clerical oversight board, the Salafi Call.

Such a move would give Abdel-Ghafour and his political wing the ability to maneuver away from the edicts of the religious leaders.

The second camp opposes splitting the party from the sheiks, and is closely linked to a heavyweight Salafi cleric, Yasser Borhami.

Several prominent party figures are in this camp, including former spokesman Nader Bakkar, who was removed from his post by Abdel-Ghafour.

As the internal party election began last month, the second camp put forward a rival candidate, Mustafa Khalifa, for the party's top job.

Abdel-Ghafour responded by suspending voting and accusing his rivals of forgery to pack party posts with their loyalists.

This left the party split between two leaders.

After a long meeting last night, Bakkar and spokesman Yousry Hammad of the original leadership said in separate statements that the party had mended the rifts and agreed to keep Abdel-Ghafour as leader.

PTI