Egyptian election campaign opens

Egypt's first competitive presidential election campaign has started officially, with incumbent Hosni Mubarak likely to sweep aside all opponents at the poll.

    Hosni Mubarak is seeking his fifth term in office

    The three-week-long elections campaign comes at a moment of renewed international pressure, with the 77-year-old president allowing a multi-candidate competition for the first time in his 24-year rule. 

    Among the nine challengers, reform champion Ayman Nour and liberal Wafd party leader Numan Gumaa are the most high-profile.

    The election has yielded some novelties on the political scene, with parties arguing over whether to boycott the poll and civil society groups making an unprecedented push to monitor it.

    The run-up to the vote witnessed a series of anti-Mubarak street demonstrations unthinkable a year ago, and the large portraits of the leader that used to dot the country's roads and buildings are disappearing.

    Opposition protests

    Nour said earlier this month that one of his supporters had been shot and wounded in the foot by police while he was putting up campaign posters in a Cairo suburb. The Interior Ministry denied the incident.

    Mubarak retains the privilege of having the Islamic crescent as the symbol for his campaign, a logo that will appear on the ballots when an estimated 32 million Egyptians make their decision on 7 September. 

     

    Protests against Mubarak's rule
    have been widespread

    The four-term president of the ruling National Democratic Congress Party is expected to tackle several issues pertaining to constitutional and legislative reforms in the country.

    Many parties have complained that the conditions in which the poll will take place and the restrictions imposed on candidates wishing to challenge Mubarak, will not allow for a free and fair election.

    Boycott

    Two major opposition groups - the Marxist Tagammu and the Nasserist party - have called for a boycott of the poll, while the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, which remains Egypt's main opposition force, has yet to make its position known.

    Opposition groups have said there was widespread fraud in previous elections, but the government has rejected Washington's request for international monitors.

    Analysts have warned that a fresh wave of attacks in Egypt risks undermining the electoral process by inhibiting the opposition and offering the government reasons to maintain the 24-year-old state of emergency.

    Last month, bombers wreaked havoc in the tourist-packed Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh and killed about 70 people, including several foreigners.

    The multiple attack resembled another series of deadly bombings in October, farther north in the Sinai peninsula, where another bombing on Monday wounded two Canadian peacekeepers and revived concerns over Egypt's security.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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