President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's leader for almost a quarter of a century, said Thursday that he'll run in the country's first-ever multi-candidate elections in September.
Mubarak, 77, who's been president of Egypt since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, was speaking at his secondary school in the governorate of Munifiya in the north of the country. His announcement was broadcast live on state television.
"I announce in front of you from here, the province of Menoufia, that I have decided to nominate myself for the presidential elections," Mubarak was quoted as saying by the AP, whose speech was immediately interrupted by wild applause from hundreds of supporters, including his wife, Suzanne, and sons Alaa and Gamal.
Mubarak confirmed the newly formed electoral commission would oversee the elections from beginning to end. The Sept. 7 elections will be "transparent," he said.
Mubarak also said he's inviting Arab leaders to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where at least 64 people died in terrorist bombings on July 23, for an emergency Arab League meeting on August 3.
In his speech to an audience gathered in the school, Mubarak listed recent government measures, including subsidies for the poor and efforts to attract more tourists, Bloomberg reports.
He proposed replacing the country's emergency laws, which have been in place since the assassination of Anwar Sadat, with new legislation to "combat terrorism."
"There is a need for a firm and decisive law that eliminates terrorism and uproots its threats. A law that protects national security and ensures stability," he was quoted as saying by BBC.
Opposition groups say the authorities have used the emergency laws to curb political freedoms, and have focused their campaigns on repeal of these laws and on the fact that Mr Mubarak has ruled Egypt for just short of a quarter of a century and is seeking another six years.
During the 1990s, Mubarak directed Egypt's security forces to wage a relentless crackdown on Islamic extremists, resulting in the killing or execution of scores and jailing of thousands.
In four previous presidential referendums, Mubarak has won each with landslide results as the sole candidate offered to the public.
But amid local and U.S.-led calls for greater democratic freedoms in the Middle East, Mubarak earlier this year directed the parliament to amend Egypt's constitution to allow for direct presidential elections open to more than one candidate.
While pro-democracy proponents initially hailed the move, many opposition activists have since complained that the amendments did not go far enough and, instead, placed almost insurmountable restrictions on people wanting to challenge Mubarak, AP informs.
The constitutional amendments bar dual citizens from running and stipulate that independent candidates must get 250 recommendations from elected members of both houses of parliament and city councils to run. Each body is dominated by Mubarak's political party. Opposition members say it is virtually impossible to attain so many recommendations.
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