July 29, 2005

Egypt opposition leader applies to challenge Mubarak

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour on
Friday applied to stand against President Hosni Mubarak in
presidential elections on Sept. 7, arriving early in the hope
of having his name at the top of the ballot papers.

Nour, leader of the liberal Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, told
Reuters his group was the first to turn up at the headquarters
of the Presidential Election Commission when it opened to
receive nomination papers in the morning.

But he failed to obtain any assurance that the names would
be listed in the order in which candidates submitted their
papers or even that they would be in alphabetical order, he
said. In Arabic, Nour would come before Mubarak alphabetically.

"There was a disagreement on that point. The chairman of
the commission (judge Mamdouh Marei) said the commission would
study the matter," he said by telephone.

A delegate for Mubarak turned up later to present the
president's own papers, the state news agency MENA said.

Mubarak announced on Thursday he would stand for a fifth
six-year term as leader of the Arab world's most populous
nation, in the first presidential elections ever with more than
one candidate. The politburo of the ruling National Democratic
Party endorsed the nomination by consensus later in the day.

Nour is expected to be his most prominent opponent but
after decades of authoritarian government and state domination
of the domestic media, analysts say he has no chance of

Police arrested Nour in January and he is on trial on
forgery charges which he says are meant to discredit his
election campaign. The next session of the trial will not take
place until Sept. 25, after the voting.

The rules exclude a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood,
the influential Islamist organization thought to be the largest
single opposition group in the country.

Nour said Marei had promised him that a judge would
supervise every ballot box in the country on Sept. 7.

The state news agency said that Osama Shaltout of the small
Takaful (Solidarity) Party and a number of little known
independents also submitted their nomination papers on Friday.

Some of the big parties, including the leftist Tagammu and
the Arab nationalist Nasserite Party, have decided to boycott
the elections, on the grounds that the authorities have given
insufficient assurances that voting will be free and fair.

One of the independents was Mohamed Mohamed Moussa, whom
MENA described as a high school dropout and a farmer with five
acres of land near the town of Ismailia.

The independents will not be able to run unless they
persuade 65 of the 444 members of the lower house of parliament
to endorse them -- a difficult task when 90 percent of the
members are from the ruling party.