"I will submit a new request for an amendment to Article 76," said Mubarak about the constitutional article that sets procedures for presidential elections. 

 

One of the aims would be "to reinforce the chances of parties taking part in presidential elections", Mubarak said.

 

The government had already signalled that it was planning to change the article, which under present conditions would enable only the ruling party to field a presidential candidate because no other party has enough parliamentary seats to qualify.

 

His remark at the end of his speech drew standing ovations from the assembled members of the two houses of parliament. Mubarak repeated the words several times.

 

Transition to the future

 

"Transition to the future" was the slogan of Mubarak's presidential campaign in 2005, when he faced a rival candidate for the first time in a quarter century as head of state of the Arab world's most populous country.

 

Mohamed el-Sayed Said, the deputy director of Egypt's Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said the natural interpretation of Mubarak's remark was that he intended to stay in office for the rest of his life.

 

Some analysts have speculated that Mubarak, 78, intends to step down before his current term ends in 2011 so that his 42-year-old son, Gamal, a prominent member of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), can take over.

 

"The language that he used is the language you use when you say I'm staying in power until I pass away," according to el-Sayed Said.

 

"The interesting feature in this is the enthusiasm with which the members met this statement, clearly signifying some sort of unease with the notion of inheritance or passing power to the president's son."