For the first time, Egyptians are set to vote in a multi-party election.
However few analysts predict President Hosni Mubarak will fail to win a fifth term. Under a court ruling yesterday, independent groups have been barred from monitoring inside polling stations – a move they have condemned saying it proves authorities have something to hide. International observers are not being allowed to oversee the vote either. Only two of Mubarak’s rivals – both of them liberals – are being taken seriously: Ayman Nour of the Ghad Party, and Noman Gomaa of the Wafd Party, which dominated Egyptian politics in the early 20th century. Stringent new rules effectively prevented the popular Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition party which is banned, to field its own candidate as an independent. Some 32 million people are eligible to vote in Egypt, but turnout is traditionally low in this country which has been under authoritarian rule for more than half a century. The government has warned it will not tolerate any protests on election day.