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EGYPT: First presidential candidate announced

February 17, 2010 | 10:09 am

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Ayman Nour, founder of El Ghad opposition party, is the first candidate to officially state his intention to run in the nation’s 2011 presidential elections.

Nour was nominated by the majority of his party’s council earlier in the week. "Last time the decision to run for president was my own," he said, "but this time it is my destiny as the party has chosen me and this is a patriotic responsibility that I do not have the right to reject." 

The feisty lawyer finished as runner-up to President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate elections in 2005, but soon afterward, he was charged with forging signatures in support of his run against Mubarak. Human rights organizations said the charges had been trumped up, but Nour was sentenced to five years in prison. He was  released  last February on medical grounds.

 Anyone convicted of such a crime in Egypt is barred from running for the presidency for at least five years after the expiration of the sentence.  Still, Nour is confident that the legal system will be on his side when he tries to overturn the ban.

 

"This will be a legal and constitutional fight and we are ready to launch into it," he said. "We have judicial and constitutional provisions as well as decisions from the Constitutional Court that refute the textual justification for the ban on my participating in politics."

 

Nour added that he will start his campaign on Thursday by visiting a number of cities, including El Mahalla in the Nile Delta and Port Said by the Suez Canal. In the meantime, two activists belonging to opposition movement, April 6, have been detained on Wednesday for spray-painting walls in Cairo with slogans showing support to former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and potential candidate, Mohamed ElBaradei.

 

ElBaradei, who will return to Egypt on Friday, left his post at the IAEA  in November, and many Egyptians are hoping that he will  consider running for president. The former Nobel Peace Prize-winner previously said that he would run only if fair, transparent and internationally monitored elections are guaranteed beforehand.

 

Mubarak has been in office since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, and the 81-year-old is yet to confirm whether he will be the ruling National Democratic Party’s (NDP) candidate. Speculations mixed with fear have recently grown among millions of Egyptians that Mubarak is grooming  Gamal Mubarak, his younger son and head of the NDP’s policies committee, to take his place as head of state.

 

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Ayman Nour among some of his supporters. Credit: Khaled Desouky/ AFP/ Getty Images

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