Egypt makes small gesture to opposition after Tunisia unrest

Analysts said the change did not offer a real opening for Egyptian opposition parties, which now have about 1 percent representation in the assembly.

Egypt makes small gesture to opposition after Tunisia unrest

Egypt's cabinet said on Sunday it had drafted a law that sets a 2017 deadline for small parties in parliament to field presidential candidates, implementing a previously passed constitutional amendment, a move one analyst said may have been driven by the toppling of Tunisia's president.

But analysts said the change did not offer a real opening for Egyptian opposition parties, which now have about 1 percent representation in the assembly.

The next presidential election is expected in September. President Hosni Mubarak, 82, in power for nearly 30 years, has not said if he will seek a sixth six-year term, but is widely expected to.

Article 76 of Egypt's constitution on how a president is elected was amended in 2007 to say parties must have at least three percent of seats in the upper and lower houses to field a candidate. But it said parties with just one seat could field a candidate till 2017.

"Fiddling around in the constitution is what this is," Mohamed Khudairy, a former judge, told Reuters. "It comes now because there is fear that situation in Egypt may explode like it did in Tunisia ... and we are waiting for this to happen."

"The law implements the constitutional amendment," said cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady, adding the law would be submitted to parliament so it could be approved before the next presidential election.

Mubarak's National Democratic Party holds an overwhelming majority of seats in both houses of parliament. Just handful of the 518 seats in the lower house are held by opposition parties. Independents have some seats as well.

The liberal Wafd party, the second biggest party in the last parliament, boycotted last year's vote after the first round, complaining that elections were rigged.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which held the biggest bloc last time and fields its candidates as independents to skirt a ban on faith-based parties, also boycotted the vote.

The constitution allows independents to run provided they obtain the backing of more than 250 elected officials in parliament and local councils. Only the ruling party has this number, so it effectively can veto any candidates.

Agencies

Last Mod: 17 Ocak 2011, 11:16
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