The skies of Cairo are cluttered with strips of cloth daubed in red, blue and green. Hanging in crowded squares and stretching across streets before traffic lights, almost all of the banners proclaim the enthusiastic support of ‘So-and-So and his family’ or ‘such-and-such shop or hospital’ for Husni Mubarak in his quest for a fifth term as president of Egypt.
As the national media seems determined to remind Egyptians every day, the banners are part of the first multi-candidate presidential election campaign in Egypt’s entire history. Article 76 of the country’s constitution, which had stipulated that Egyptians could vote yes or no on the candidacy of one person for president, was amended in the spring so that Egyptians have a choice among several hopefuls, including the nominees of ‘legal’ opposition parties. Nine such nominees are indeed running against Mubarak in the poll to be held on September 7, 2005.
Yet the amendment pushed through by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) automatically excludes from the race candidates from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood—the largest opposition force—and makes it very difficult for independent candidates to run. To be eligible, a candidate not affiliated with a party must obtain the signatures of at least 65 members of the lower house of Parliament, 25 members of the upper house and ten municipal council members from at least 14 provinces.