This is the highest level defection we've seen so far, and is representative of 1) how divisive the decision to field a presidential candidate was for the wider MB leadership; 2) how the top leadership around Khairat al-Shater is failing to impose strict obedience in the group. Hassan Beshbashy, a top FJP member, told AMAY about the defection from Morsi:
Beshbasy also called on members of the Brotherhood to back Abouel Fotouh, who he said was the "strong honest and consensus candidate backed by all the national and Islamic movements."
He told Al-Masry Al-Youm that many of the Brotherhood senior leaders held similar positions, including the Brotherhood leader Mostafa Komshaish and he expected many of them to officially announce their support of Abouel Fotouh in the coming few days.
. . .
There is talk, Beshbasy said, of launching a movment of Brotherhood leaders supporting Abouel Fotouh, under the slogan 'Brotherhood Coalition Backing Abouel Fotouh.’
The group has said members are not bound to vote for the group’s official candidate, Morsy, but have the freedom to choose which the candidate they see best fit.
"We have all the respect and appreciation for Mohamed Morsy, the FJP candidate," Beshbashy said.
He justified not backing Morsy, saying, "Morsy's candidacy represents a political suicide and a threat to the national security because the Brotherhood's acquisition of the presidency, Parliament and Cabinet would lead to the demolishing of the Islamic project with the first factious protest.”
He said some of the recent hard-line rhetoric from group and party leaders would not benefit the Muslim Brotherhood or the country. He said talk such as that of returning to the caliphate system was dangerous and might lead to disagreements with other countries.
That's the most important thing about Aboul Fotouh's candidacy: he is bringing to the fore the contradictions inside the MB, forcing a debate with the hardliner leadership controlled by Shater and his allies, and eroding a tradition of strict obedience that no longer makes sense when the movement is not banned or persecuted.