President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's leader for almost a quarter of a century, announced his bid yesterday to contest the country's first ever elections in September open to more than one candidate.
Mubarak, 77, made the widely expected announcement during a nationally televised speech delivered in Shibin el Kom, the capital of the Nile delta province of Menoufia where he was born.
"I announce in front of you from here, the province of Menoufia, that I have decided to nominate myself for the presidential elections," Mubarak said, whose speech was immediately interrupted by wild applause from hundreds of supporters, including his wife, Suzanne, and son, Gamal.
After stepping off the podium, the president was swarmed by hugging and kissing supporters who cheered throughout his hour-long speech delivered at the secondary school he graduated from in 1946.
Scores of bodyguards surrounded Mubarak as he waded into the crowd to accept the greetings of some of his most fervent supporters and members of his ruling National Democratic Party.
In a wide-ranging address that started with his upbringing in this region north of Cairo and role as Egypt's air force commander during the October 1973 war with Israel, Mubarak also laid out his vision for the future following his likely Sept. 7 election win.
Days after Egypt's deadliest ever terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Mubarak also proposed introducing a new anti-terrorism law to replace highly criticized emergency laws in place since the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, by Islamic extremists during a Cairo military parade.
"The time has come to create decisive role to fight terrorism ... [by introducing] a law that would be a legislative replacement for the emergency law in combating terrorism," Mubarak said.
Political activists and human rights groups have long criticized Egypt's emergency laws for giving authorities wide powers to arrest, detain people for extended periods of time without formal charges and bring civilians before military courts, from which appeals are limited.
Mubarak also called for an Arab leaders summit to be held on Wednesday in Sharm, where three pre-dawn bombings killed up to 88 people, according to hospital officials. Egypt's Health Ministry said 64 people died, but numerous body parts have not been identified, while several tourists -- including 10 Britons -- have not been accounted for.
In four previous presidential referendums, Mubarak has won each with landslide results as the sole candidate offered to the public.
But amid local and US-led calls for democratic freedoms in the Middle East, Mubarak directed the parliament to amend Egypt's constitution to allow for direct presidential elections open to more than one candidate.
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