Egypt`s first multicandidate presidential election

Police and plainclothes security men beat and arrested demonstrators calling for a boycott of Wednesday's government-backed referendum on constitutional changes that would clear the way for Egypt's first multicandidate presidential election.

Opponents say the referendum does not go far enough in advancing democracy, contending the rules being laid down ensure that President &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Hosni Mubarak will have no serious challengers and that his ruling National Democratic Party will keep its grip on power, tells the Washington Post.

The referendum would change Egypt's constitution to allow independents and some political factions to run in next September's presidential elections, but it sets tough conditions to get on the ballot.

Opposition leaders say the rules are so strict that no opposition candidate would be able to mount a serious challenge to President Mubarak.

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