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October 21, 2010

Egypt's Ruling Party Announces President Mubarak Will Run Again

The Egyptian public, the press, and the country's opposition appear to be taking the news that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will run for sixth term as president next year with little surprise, despite rumors about his health.    

News that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be running for a sixth term as president made headlines in the Egyptian press Friday, but appears not to have caught either the public or the opposition by surprise.

The head of Mr. Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, Ali el Din Hilal, told Al Hurra TV Thursday that the president would be the party's candidate next year, "God willing." He also indicated that the official nod would not go out until "a month or two" before the 2011 poll.

Several Egyptians contacted by VOA expressed little emotion over the announcement. "My big concern," says 30-year-old Bakr, "is to put food on the table, not who is running the country."

Hoda, a middle-aged secretary who wears a headscarf, points out that Egyptian leaders historically remain in office until they die. "Our pharaohs, our kings and our presidents," she notes, "have usually ruled the country until their last breath."

Hosni Mubarak, who has been in office since 1981, took over after the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat. Prior to that, veteran President Gamal Abdal Nasser died in office in 1970, after toppling the monarchy in 1952.

Egyptian publisher and human rights activist Hisham Kassem says that the announcement of Mr. Mubarak's candidacy does not surprise him and that it is in line with the president's own past statements:

"I'm not in the least surprised," said Hisham Kassem. "I had no doubt that Mubarak was running, again. I think he will continue in office as long as he is 'compos mentis,' as long as his mental faculties are sound, regardless of the physical, and he has said in the past that he will serve this country to the last heart-beat. So, all this talk about his son being groomed [to succeed him] is total nonsense."

President Mubarak underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder in Germany in March. Rumors that he remains ill have persisted, despite affirmations to the contrary by his entourage. Speculation that his son Gamal will succeed him continues to keep many guessing.

Abdul Rahman Youssef, who is the campaign coordinator for opposition leader and former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei, stressed that his team views Hosni Mubarak as the man to beat:

He argues that Mr. Mubarak's candidacy did not surprise him and that he knew that the president's son Gamal's chances of running in his stead were non-existent, calling such talk a political stunt. Gamal, he claims, has no backing from the street and no support from centers of power in the country.

Youssef goes on to affirm that ElBaradei's campaign is focusing on a seven-point plan for change, announced last month. "We will continue to rally the people," he says, "around the principle that they have the right to choose who will lead them, and to hold their rulers accountable."