CAIRO: Muslim clerics from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s premier religious institution, chose the country’s top Islamic jurist in a direct and secret ballot yesterday that was the first such vote in six decades.
An official statement by the 24-member Senior Scholars Authority says that it elected Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim, a professor in Islamic jurisprudence, to the post of Grand Mufti.
The selection is now expected to be ratified by President Mohammed Morsi, which will make it final.
Previously, the Grand Mufti was appointed by the president, but after the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s interim military rulers amended Al-Azhar’s bylaws.
The election of Abdel-Karim from among three candidates came against a backdrop of heightened political tensions and protests over Morsi’s rule.
Many expected his powerful backers – the Muslim Brotherhood – to field their own candidate for the job.