Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:27 am (KSA) 21:27 pm (GMT)

Egypt’s Mubarak promises free and fair elections

Mubarak avoided any mention of whether he will stand again in the 2011 presidential election
Mubarak avoided any mention of whether he will stand again in the 2011 presidential election

President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday pledged a fair election in Egypt next year in his first speech since he had an operation last month, but also warned the opposition against "gambling" with stability.

However the octogenarian president, who has ruled since 1981 and underwent surgery in Germany to remove his gall bladder, avoided any mention of whether he will stand again in the 2011 presidential election.

 I say with sincerity and frankness that I welcome the interplay and movement in society, as long as it follows the constitution 
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

Mubarak, who has never appointed a vice president and is widely believed to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him, said his government had undertaken political reforms since 2005 that had increased the public's role in politics.

"I say with sincerity and frankness that I welcome the interplay and movement in society, as long as it follows the constitution," he said in a live television speech to mark 28 years since Israel withdrawal from the Sinai.

Mubarak added the future of the country would not be decided by "vituperation," in an apparent reference to opposition demands for changes to the constitution and an end to the country's state of emergency.

That was imposed in 1981 after the assassination by Islamists during a military parade in Cairo of Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat, who had signed a peace treaty with Israel two years previously.

"I wish to reaffirm my commitment to the integrity of these elections, and I welcome every national and sincere effort that proposes a view or solutions to the issues and problems of our nation, and does not gamble with its security, stability and future," Mubarak said.

Egypt's disorganized secular opposition movements were galvanized earlier this year with the return of former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei to the country to launch a new reform movement.

ElBaradei has said he would stand for president, but only if the constitution is amended to remove restrictions on independent candidates.

Mubarak's government has rebuffed foreign calls to hold competitive elections as meddling in his country's affairs.

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