"The Egyptian parliament will embody the future, inshallah (God willing)," he said on Saturday at a gathering in front of Cairo's Abdeen presidential palace for the presentation of the National Democratic Party's (NDP) Cairo candidates.

The 42-year-old, who chose not to contest the November polls himself, stole the show once again.

Election effort

But nearly two months after 77-year-old Hosni Mubarak swept to a fifth six-year term, the party's young technocrats and official caciques are working hand in glove to secure another electoral victory for the NDP.

The Muslim Brotherhood is
Egypt's largest opposition group

Party apparatchiks filled the front rows, backed by about 2000 supporters - most of them bused from the constituencies - singing the praises of their leaders.

The parliamentary elections are to start on 9 November and will last a month, as polling will be divided in three geographical phases.

The first wave will include the Cairo region, where 523 candidates are contesting the capital's 48 seats. The NDP controls 404 of the 454 seats in the house.

Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt's parliament became a largely toothless institution when
an autocratic government was established half a century ago, but the elections are a backdrop for the NDP's own internal reforms and the opposition's efforts to unite.

"These elections come at a turning point in the history of our country, which is facing new challenges"

Gamal Mubarak

A small number of candidates are endorsed by a coalition of several mainly secular opposition parties, but no less than 432 are running as independents, a tally that includes many NDP members who did not make the cut.

Most of the other independents are from the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition force.

The Brotherhood is also fielding a "sister", one of only a handful of women running in the elections. She wears the veil and argues that demanding equality with men "goes against nature".

Turning point?

In the well-balanced cast of the NDP's campaign launch Saturday, Gamal Mubarak was given the role of a modern statistics-wielding politician glowing with composure and self-confidence.

"These elections come at a turning point in the history of our country, which is facing new challenges," said Hosni Mubarak's youngest son, who many suspect is being groomed for succession. 

To tackle these challenges, Gamal Mubarak - who leads the NDP policies' secretariat - outlined the government's economic programme, promising 5% annual growth, a rise of 20% in exports and of 150% in foreign investment.

His pledges for more housing and better sanitation were interrupted by cries of "Youth and workers, we all love you Gamal".