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Egypt will apparently now allow more than one presidential candidate to run

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-egypt-presidential-elections,0,5772224.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines Egypt s Mubarak Orders
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2005
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      http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-egypt-presidential-elections,0,5772224.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines
      Egypt's Mubarak Orders Election Reform

      By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF
      Associated Press Writer

      February 26, 2005, 9:05 AM EST

      CAIRO, Egypt -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on
      Saturday ordered a revision of the country's election
      laws and said multiple candidates could run in the
      nation's presidential elections, a scenario Mubarak
      hasn't faced since taking power in 1981.

      The surprise announcement, a response to critics'
      calls for political reform, comes shortly after
      historic elections in Iraq and the Palestinian
      territories, balloting that brought a taste of
      democracy to the region. It also comes amid a sharp
      dispute with the United States over Egypt's arrest of
      one of the strongest proponents of multi-candidate
      elections.

      "The election of a president will be through direct,
      secret balloting, giving the chance for political
      parties to run for the presidential elections and
      providing guarantees that allow more than one
      candidate for the people to choose among them with
      their own will," Mubarak said in an address broadcast
      live on Egyptian television.

      Mubarak -- who has never faced an opponent since
      becoming president after the 1981 assassination of
      Anwar Sadat -- said his initiative came "out of my
      full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for
      more freedom and democracy."

      The audience before him at Menoufia University broke
      into applause and calls of support, some shouting,
      "Long live Mubarak, mentor of freedom and democracy!"
      Others spontaneously recited verses of poetry praising
      the government.

      Mubarak said he asked parliament and the Shura Council
      to amend Article 76 of the constitution, which deals
      with presidential elections. Mohammed Kamal, a leading
      member of the ruling party's policy-making committee,
      said parliament would propose its amendment within two
      weeks.

      Mubarak said the amendment would then be put to a
      public referendum before the presidential polls, which
      are scheduled for September. Kamal said he expected
      the referendum to be held within nine weeks.

      As recently as last month Mubarak had rejected
      opposition demands to open presidential balloting to
      other candidates, and he was obviously aware of the
      historic potential of his announcement.

      "If it happens, it would be the first time in the
      political history of Egypt that a chance is given to
      somebody who is capable of shouldering the
      responsibility to protect the people's achievements
      and future security to come forward for presidential
      elections with parliamentary and popular support," he
      said.

      Egypt holds presidential referendums every six years
      in which people vote "yes" or "no" for a single
      candidate who has been approved by parliament. Mubarak
      has been nominated by his ruling National Democratic
      Party to stand in four presidential referendums,
      winning more than 90 percent of the vote each time.

      Mubarak has not officially announced his candidacy for
      a fifth term, though he is widely expected to be
      nominated by his ruling party.

      Several opposition leaders have demanded that Mubarak
      amend the constitution to let more than one candidate
      compete for the presidency. In recent meetings between
      opposition groups and the government, it was agreed
      that an amendment would be discussed after September's
      presidential referendum, making Mubarak's announcement
      even more surprising.

      The move also comes amid a dispute between Egypt and
      the United States over the recent detention of an
      opposition leader.

      Ayman Nour, head of the Al-Ghad Party, was detained
      Jan. 29 on allegations of forging nearly 2,000
      signatures to secure a license for his party last
      year. He has rejected the accusation, and human rights
      groups have said his detention was politically
      motivated.

      The prosecutor general has denied that charge.

      His detention has been strongly criticized by
      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Rice canceled
      a Mideast visit that had been planned for next week, a
      decision believed to be in protest of Nour's
      detention.

      Hafez Abu Saada, director of the Egyptian Organization
      for Human Rights, praised Mubarak's "unexpected step,"
      which he said reflected local, regional and
      international pressure.

      "It is an important step that gives the Egyptian
      society a strong push for more freedom and democracy,"
      he said.

      Activist Aida Seif el-Dawla was tentative in her
      praise.

      "This concession is made to the United States of
      America. It is better for him (Mubarak) if this
      decision came as a result of the national dialogue
      with the opposition parties and in response to the
      protests against the law," she said. "Let us wait and
      see, because a free campaign of more than one
      candidate requires more than a statement from the
      president."
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