Gamal Mubarak, appointed by his father last year to head an influential NDP committee on policymaking, welcomed the supportive vote from delegates at the NDP's annual convention on Sunday.

"There are great challenges which we have to meet," he said in a speech after the ballot. "The National Democratic Party has made up its mind. There will be no retreat from the path which we have chosen."

On the final day of the three-day congress, delegates adopted a package of reform proposals with a broad sweep, including democratisation and human rights, accelerating privatisation and encouraging investment, improving public transportation and addressing the status of women in Egypt.

"The real criteria for our success is in implementing what we have agreed upon," the younger Mubarak said. "Implementation is a decisive factor which will support our credibility in this society."

Platform for presidency

"We will start implementing (the reforms) as soon as possible"

Gamal Mubarak,
Egyptian president's son
 

He said the proposals would be presented to the public for further discussion but urged the government to start implementing them immediately.

"We will not wait until the next conference. We will start implementing them as soon as possible," he said.

Many saw the three-day congress as a platform for Gamal Mubarak, 39, to further a campaign that could eventually see him replace his 79-year-old father as Egypt's president. Both men have denied that Gamal Mubarak is being groomed for the job.

The congress was to close officially on Sunday night after a speech by the president.

Gamal Mubarak has been actively promoting his reform package across the country. Most delegates at the convention believed the reforms would improve Egypt.

Party line

"Certainly this is a very serious attempt by the NDP for reform," said delegate Ibrahim Kamel. "All the policies which have been proposed to the convention have been carefully researched and studied and they offer a solution to all our problems. If we succeed, the party and the country will succeed."

Kamel, a leading businessmen and a member of the party's highest decision-making committee, said he expected the reform package could bear fruit within three years.

"As a citizen, I would like to see full democracy that will guarantee stability and growth," Kamel said. "And as a businessman, I would like to see our economy based on a full market economy which will pave the way for more economic developments."  

"Our message to the NDP is that we want free and independent elections and we refuse hereditary rule "

Fathy Ibrahim,
Accountant and protestor

Some party members worried that the measures would be met with resistance by the "old guard" in the government and said that there is still hard work to be done to push the reforms through.

Mahmud Moheiddin, head of the party's economic committee, strongly warned government bureaucrats that all measures agreed on by the party should be implemented.

"We all know that economic reform has a cost. But delay will make the situation even much worse and the next generations will pay a heavy price for it," he told The Associated Press news agency. "This is not the end of it. We will take further measures to commit the government to the new policies."

Egyptians having been feeling the economic crunch, with basic commodities lately missing from store shelves and the currency weakening.

Protests

At a rally Sunday in downtown Cairo, demonstrators blamed the NDP and its government for their economic woes.
 
"The NDP and its government are responsible for the increase of prices that people are suffering now and they are also responsible for robbery and corruption in the country," said Kamal Khalil, a leftist engineer.

Fathy Ibrahim, 55, accountant, said the NDP leaders do not address the problems that affect the Egyptian people.

"Our message to the NDP is that we want free and independent elections and we refuse hereditary rule, " Ibrahim said.