Egypt Parliament Widens Electoral Field (AP) By MAGGIE MICHAEL CAIRO, EGYPT 05/10/05 10:59 AM)
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CAIRO, Egypt -- In a major step toward multicandidate presidential
elections, parliament Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a constitutional
amendment proposed by President Hosni Mubarak amid calls for reform
during his 23-year authoritarian rule.
Parliament, a 454-seat house dominated by Mubarak´s National
Democratic Party, had been expected to adopt the amendment. A
referendum will follow, possibly later this month, to ratify the
amendment. The election is scheduled for September, but the 77-year-
old Mubarak has yet to announce whether he would seek a fifth, six-
Mubarak has so far been elected in simple "yes" or "no" votes in
which he was the sole candidate. He proposed opening the door to
other candidates for president in a surprise announcement in
Parliament approved the amendment first by a show of hands and later
by an official roll call, with 405 deputies voting in favor and two
abstaining. Speaker Fathi Sorour did not say how many voted against
the measure, but at least 20 opposition and independent deputies
were seen leaving the chamber during the roll call.
The amendment needed 303 deputies, or two-third of house members, to
It ran into fierce opposition by political parties, reform groups
and judges over what they saw as the crippling conditions set for
independents who want to run against Mubarak and the lack of
guarantees for a clean vote.
Major opposition parties voiced strong objections to amendment
during debate Tuesday in a session that lasted nearly four hours and
was held amid extraordinary security.
Mubarak´s February announcement has plunged Egypt into political
uncertainty deepened by a flurry of unprecedented street protests
and repeated U.S. calls for the introduction of reforms. On its
part, Mubarak´s government has cracked down on the outlawed Muslim
Brotherhood, arguably Egypt´s largest opposition group, rounding up
hundreds of its members. It also has rebutted calls for the repeal
of emergency laws in force since 1981.
"This is a constitutional massacre," Abdel Azeem Maghrabi, an
independent deputy, said during the debate, which was broadcast live
on state television. "Enough, enough, enough!"
But Kamal el-Shazli, a stalwart of Mubarak´s party and a staunch
supporter of the regime, expressed support for the amendment.
"We still need Mubarak and we still need Mubarak´s purity," he
Ayman Nour, the leader of the Tomorrow party who has declared his
candidacy, rejected the draft. "We returned to zero point," he said.
Haider Baghdadi, the only deputy from the Nasserite party, was
immediately dismissed from his party when he told the house that he
had no objections to the draft.
The amendment to the constitution´s Article 76 initially stipulated
that independents must get 300 recommendations from elected members
of the lower and upper houses of parliament and city councils, all
of which are dominated by Mubarak´s party, before they are cleared
to enter the race. The approved amendment lowered this to 250.
Opposition political parties, whose popular base have greatly
diminished in recent years, were exempted from these conditions,
according to a text of the draft published in the local media.
Less than a mile away from the parliament building in downtown
Cairo, the opposition Kifaya, or "Enough" group, called for a
boycott of the presidential election, labeling it "theatrics" and
In a statement, it accused the government of desperate maneuvers
aimed at "aborting people´s hopes for freedom and democracy." Kifaya
is a growing activist movement calling for an end to Mubarak´s rule
and far reaching political reforms.
Dozens of Mubarak supporters rallied in the same downtown area,
raising the president´s picture and chanting, "We protect Mubarak
with our soul and blood!" and "Long live Mubarak, long live Egypt!"
Some of the pro-Mubarak demonstrators wore stickers declaring "Yes
to Mubarak" and "Not enough."
"I love Hosni Mubarak. ... He is a father to all Egyptians," said 28-
year-old government employee Ahmed Eied. ___Associated Press
reporters Sarah El Deeb and Nadia Abouel-Magd contributed to this
report from Cairo. (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 05/10/05)
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