Saad al-Din Ibrahim, a university professor, sociologist and critic of Egypt's military-controlled regime, admitted that his chances for success are slim, but said his possible run for the country's top job is aimed at breaking the taboo that only the sitting president can be considered a candidate.

"If given the chance, I personally want to run (for president) to break the barrier of fear and intimidation," Ibrahim told The Associated Press.

President Husni Mubarak, 76, has led Egypt since the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

In four previous presidential referendums, which require Egyptians to vote yes or no, Mubarak has been the sole candidate. The next poll is set for October 2005.

One-man rule

"Not that I have real hopes of success, but I want to show my fellow Egyptians that nothing should be a political taboo," Ibrahim said.

He spent more than a year behind bars before being exonerated in 2003 on charges related to his election monitoring activities.

"If given the chance, I personally want to run (for president) to break the barrier of fear
and intimidation"


Saad al-Din Ibrahim,
political reform activist

In October, 650 activists and opposition political party members vowed to push for a constitutional amendment to end Egypt's system of one-man rule and bar Mubarak from standing for a fifth term.

The activists said they would draw up a draft constitution to replace the existing one and begin circulating it soon.

Mubarak, a close US ally, heads the National Democratic Party which controls the Egyptian parliament and would be unlikely to support an amendment seeking to change the presidential status quo.

"We know the NDP and the president are reluctant to do it (amend the constitution), but we will keep challenging it and demanding something be done," Ibrahim said, adding that his Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies will monitor the 2005 presidential poll.

Changes unlikely

Political experts say there is little chance a constitutional amendment demanding a direct vote for multiple presidential candidates will succeed.

Many speculate Mubarak's son
Jamal will inherit the presidency

"The government hasn't the political will to do anything positive," Nijad al-Borai, chairman of the opposition Group for Democratic Development, said.

Even if the government allowed multi-candidate elections, al-Borai said Mubarak or a candidate chosen by the establishment would still win.

"What we need is to change the political environment, erase the emergency laws and allow people to demonstrate in the streets, write whatever they want and enjoy freedom of expression," he said. "After that we can talk about (presidential) elections."

Egypt has maintained emergency laws since Sadat's 1981 assassination. While activists condemn the laws as too restrictive, the government says they are needed to ensure security.

There has been wide speculation that Mubarak's youngest son, the business-savvy Jamal, is being groomed to replace his father, an idea that has enraged activists and been repeatedly denied by both Mubaraks.