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Ruling Party's Pledge for Reforms Does Not Raise Expectations in Egypt - 2003-09-29

Following three days of debate, Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party says reform is on the way.

With promises of political, economic, and social reform, Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party concluded its three-day congress late Sunday, led by the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Gamal Mubarak has been climbing Egypt's political ladder for the past several years and is now the head of the powerful policy-making secretariat of the National Democratic Party.

Late Sunday, Gamal Mubarak said there was no turning back from the path the party had chosen regarding political, economic and social reform, including democratization, the promotion of foreign investment, education and the promotion of women.

But such promises have been made many times throughout the past two decades of rule by President Mubarak's National Democratic Party, and the head of the political science department at Cairo University, Hassan Nafae, says few people expect much change, especially as long as military laws continue to be applied in Egypt.

"I do not have the impression that, unless there is a real translation on the ground, there will be no real reform," he said. "The magnitude of the reform declared by the president is a little bit ambiguous. The country is still running under military rules, and I do not think that Egypt will go back to normal very soon."

Mr. Nafae said that although it is widely speculated that President Mubarak, who is 75-years-old, may be grooming his son to replace him one day, such a continuance of power, Mr. Nafae says, would not necessarily be welcomed in Egypt.

"Gamal Mubarak is rising as the number-one star within the party, but this does not mean he has a real chance to become the president of Egypt," said Mr. Nafae. "This issue will be debated in the future as the people start to talk about it. They do not know exactly what is going on in the mind of the president himself about this issue, but it is a serious issue and I do not have the impression that the Egyptian people will be welcoming a kind of succession."

Another political analyst, who asked that he not be identified, told VOA that he laughed when he heard the National Democratic Party had endorsed reform measures. The analyst said it is what Egyptians have been promised for two decades. The analyst added that Egyptians are still waiting.