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Muslim clerics from Al-Azhar, Egypt's premier religious institution, elect top Islamic jurist

Muslim clerics from Al-Azhar, Egypt's premier religious institution, have chosen the country's top Islamic jurist via direct and secret balloting — the first such vote in six decades.

An official statement by the Senior Scholars Authority says Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim, a professor in Islamic jurisprudence, was elected Grand Mufti in a Monday vote. The results are now expected to pass ratification by President Mohammed Morsi.

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.

Abdel-Karim will be the country's 19th Grand Mufti since 1895. He succeeds the moderate Ali Gomaa, who served for eight years.