Mubarak pledges fair elections

Egyptian president promises a fair poll as ex-ambassador announces plan to contest.

    Abdullah al-Ashaal is planning to run against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president [Al Jazeera]
     

    "No regime, ever since the Pharaohs, has been elected in Egypt, so we want to push the Egyptian people to decide their own fate," Abdullah al-Ashaal said.

    Al-Ashaal, 65, said that he was planning to seek the support of an opposition party to enable him to challenge what he calls the monopolisation of power by Mubarak, the president for the nearly 29 years.

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    "This is a big shift, not only to reform but also to make the historic step that Egyptians should vote to choose their ruler."

    Al-Ashaal said he was speaking to several parties about joining them, but was particularly looking to the Arab Socialist Party.

    The former Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia criticised a clause in the constitution which the opposition says restricts their ability to field candidates for the presidency and makes it almost impossible for independents to run. 

    "We need to get the confidence of the Egyptian citizens and be sure that his vote is the only criteria to change the situation in Egypt,"al-Ashaal said.

    "Even if the ruling party comes back through transparent elections we will welcome that, but the problem is that the Egyptians are barred from changing anything in Egypt."

    Family future

    Mubarak, who easily won the country's first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005, has not said if he will seek another term in the 2011 election.

    But if he chooses not to run, many Egyptians believe he will try to hand power to his son, Gamal, 46. Both men have denied that this is the plan.

    Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has already shaken up the country's political scene by saying he might seek the presidency.

    But he has demanded that a number of conditions, including changes to the constitution allowing independents to stand for office, are met before he will make his move.

    ElBaradei shook up Egypt's political scene by saying he might seek the presidency [Reuters]

    ElBaradei has ruled out seeking any party's backing for a possible presidential bid.

    Even with the support of an opposition party, the chances for success are limited in a country dominated for decades by Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

    To stand in an election the candidate must have held a senior party post for a year before the vote.

    Al-Ashaal has echoed a call made by other opposition figures, including ElBaradei, for an end to the emergency law that allows indefinite detentions.

    Critics say the law, which has been in place since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, is used to crackdown on dissent.

    Ayman Nour, who came a distant second to Mubarak in 2005, has also said that he wants to run again next year.

    A conviction for forgery, which he says was politically-motivated, is likely to prevent him from taking part.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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