Veteran President Hosni Mubarak was elected chairman of Egypt's ruling party Saturday at an annual congress which seems set to strengthen his son Gamal's bid to succeed him as president.
Mubarak's leadership was unchallenged by the party's 6,700 delegates, despite the post being put to a vote for the first time since he took office in 1981.
Of the 5,310 voters, nine people voted against Mubarak.
While the vote put an end to speculation of an immediate promotion for Mubarak's 43-year-old son Gamal, seen as being groomed for power in the Arab world's most populous state, some organizational changes to be made during this congress may bolster his chances of a shot at the top job.
A new "higher committee" will be created, whose members will have the right to come forward as presidential candidates, according to the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The higher committee will incorporate the influential politburo headed by the junior Mubarak.
In 2005, article 76 of the constitution was amended to allow for multi-candidate presidential elections, in which only party heads and senior members will be allowed to run for the post.
Until this conference, the NDP had no higher committee and could have only put President Mubarak forward for the next presidential elections in 2011.
Mubarak who turns 80 next year and has ruled his country for more than a quarter of a century, has always denied any ambition to start a presidential dynasty like that of fellow Arab state Syria where President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father Hafez on his death in 2000.
But Gamal's meteoric rise up the NDP ranks since his entry into politics in 1995 has prompted charges from the opposition that he is being prepared for succession.
In 2002, Gamal was put in charge of the party's policy secretariat and last year he made the high-profile announcement that after a 20-year freeze Egypt was launching a civil nuclear program.
Party officials said this year's conference will focus on social issues amid growing concern that the liberal reforms championed by the Western-leaning regime have done little to address the needs of the 44 percent of Egyptians who live on less than two dollars a day, according to World Bank figures.
Despite a major program of economic reforms which have yielded annual growth of 7.2 percent, social inequalities have increased.
"The rich get richer and the poor get less poor but not as fast," Finance Minister Yussef Boutros Ghali acknowledged on Monday.
With 80 percent of the seats in parliament, the NDP has a firm grip on the levers of power. The main opposition Muslim Brotherhood remains officially banned and holds its seats in parliament -- around one-fifth -- through nominal independents.
But the regime remains concerned enough about the Brotherhood's influence that it has launched a major crackdown on its finances and top leadership in recent months.