President Hosni Mubarak called in February for amending the constitution in what he calls a major democratic reform of Egyptian politics. In the past, yes/no referendums have returned Mubarak to office every six years since 1981.  

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WHAT IT IS: The constitutional change passed earlier this month in parliament deletes references to presidential referendums, replacing them with references to elections, and stipulates some rules.

 

Most controversially, it requires independents to get 250 recommendations from elected members of parliament and local councils - all dominated by President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party - before being allowed to enter the race.

 

WHAT IS NEEDED: At least 51% of the voting public must vote in favour of the amendment for it to pass.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: If the referendum fails, an unlikely prospect, the parliament would discuss the amendment again.

 

If it succeeds, the Cabinet will start drafting a presidential elections law to spell out regulations governing the elections' process, including powers and duties of a commission of judges and other election supervisors.

 

That law would be referred to both chambers of parliament for endorsement. Once formed, the commission would announce the start of candidate registration - expected by 30 July - and campaigning would formally begin.

 

The presidential election is in September; an exact date has not been set.