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Mubarak Undecided About Reelection Plans

April 27, 2005

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ President Hosni Mubarak kept Egyptians guessing Tuesday on whether he will run again for the presidency in the first ever elections with more than one candidate, saying he has not yet decided.

Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 24 years, had been expected to announce a decision on Tuesday in the last installment of a rare three-part interview broadcast on national television.

Instead he said: ``I don’t want to be hasty in taking the decision. By nature, I always study big decisions from all sides.″

But he hinted he might announce after the constitutional amendment allowing the elections is voted on in a referendum, expected to occur in late May.

``After this law is issued, and is implemented, I will think of what to do,″ Mubarak said.

Under internal and U.S. pressure, Mubarak earlier this year asked parliament to adopt a constitutional change that would open up this fall’s presidential election to more than one candidate. Previously Egyptians voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for one candidate, nominated by parliament.

The move heightened speculation over whether he would stand again. Mubarak turns 77 next month and has been in power since 1981. But campaigning for his re-election has already begun with posters appearing in the streets saying ``Yes, yes, Mubarak.″

``I have nothing to do with it,″ Mubarak said of the publicity. However, putting up posters in public places requires local government permission in Egypt.

Mubarak spoke with pride of the coming change in presidential elections, saying he initiated the reform ``so that the Egyptian street would move.″

``I will be happy because the Egyptian people will begin to speak their mind,″ he said.

But he cautioned the elections were not likely to work perfectly at the start: ``I don’t want this experiment to yield results today ... I am looking at the long term.″

Mubarak said he would not be upset if he got 60 percent of the vote. In his referendum-style elections, Mubarak has always got more than 90 percent of the vote.

So far, two opposition politicians have said they are prepared to stand in the race: the populist Ayman Nour of the Al-Ghad Party and the left-wing Khaled Mohie el-Din, whose Tagammu Party announced his candidacy Tuesday.

Mubarak came to power after Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. Even before he took over, his National Democratic Party practically had a monopoly on politics.

He tightened the grip by imposing emergency laws and giving security agencies a free rein in detaining thousands of Muslim militants, in effect creating a police state.

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