CAIRO, (Reuters) – A former senior Egyptian diplomat is seeking the backing of an opposition party to run for president to challenge what he calls the monopolisation of power by President Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak, 81 and in power since 1981, has not said if he will run again in the 2011 election but, if not, most Egyptians believe he will seek to hand power to his politician son, Gamal, 46. Both deny this.
“The Egyptian doesn’t believe his vote is credible,” Egypt’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Abdallah Alashaal, 65, said. “This regime wants to stay any way and by any means, so we have to circulate power,” he told Reuters, adding that he was speaking to several parties but was seeking the backing of the Arab Socialist Party in particular.
Former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei has already shaken up Egypt’s calcified politics by saying he might seek the presidency but has set terms, including changes to the constitution’s election rules, that will be tough to achieve.
The rules make it almost impossible for any candidate to run as an independent. The alternative is to run for one of the opposition parties although they have very limited clout in a country ruled for decades by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. ElBaradei has said he would not seek any party’s backing.
To enter an election for a party, the candidate must have held a senior party post for a year before the vote.
Mubarak swept the 2005 vote, Egypt’s first multi-candidate race but marred by irregularities, according to democracy activists. “The main motive to run for the elections is to test the political regime in Egypt,” Alashaal told Reuters.
Alashaal, who now lectures at universities, echoed other opposition groups in calling for an end to emergency law that allows indefinite detentions.
Critics say the law, in place since 1981 following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, is used to crackdown on dissent. “Security should help in facilitating, not blocking, democracy,” Alashaal said.
Ayman Nour, who came a distant second to Mubarak in 2005, has also says he wants to run again. He was jailed for forgery shortly after that vote, charges he says were political. That conviction is likely to prevent him running in 2011.