Opposition to Mubarak may force poll into second round

The embattled Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, held a final election rally of carefully selected supporters in Cairo last night in an effort to beat back a strong challenge by the leading opposition candidate, Ayman Nour.

Mr Nour, a 40-year-old lawyer who has received cautious support from the US for his Ghad (tomorrow) Party's challenge to the 77-year-old strong man, received a tumultuous reception from emotional followers at a meeting in the Egyptian capital's vast Tahrir Square.

Opinion polls suggest that the contest, the first multi-party election for the country's head of state, could go to a second round run-off after Wednesday's vote, despite claims of widespread intimidation of opposition campaigners by security forces and electoral officials.

Throughout the campaign, President Mubarak has underlined his magnanimity in accepting competition after ruling for 20 years on the basis of a simple "yes" or "no" referendum as a mandate for retaining power. "These days will be recorded by history," he declared in Alexandria on Saturday. "The initiative to amend the constitution has changed the face of political life in Egypt and opened new horizons of freedom and democracy."

Internet opinion polls predict that Mr Nour and Mr Mubarak will be neck and neck in Wednesday's polling, with between 30 and 40 per cent, while some 20 per cent is expected for Noaman Gomaa of the New Wafd Party, who is seen as a Government-backed spoiler candidate to sabotage Mr Nour. If no candidate wins 51 per cent outright on Wednesday, a second round would be held.

Mr Nour has campaigned on a platform of eliminating official graft and poured scorn on President Mubarak's pledge to create 4.5 million new jobs over the next six years. "We will attack corruption from the top and the bottom," hetold the crowd to wild applause. "I have heard the President say on private television that corrupt ministers can now be taken to court. I should like to ask the President if he is talking about Egypt or another country." Mr Nour also accused the Government of giving scant attention to the plight of the poor.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood movement is excluded because of rules prohibiting religious parties. It has called the presidential election "cosmetic", but urged its supporters to vote following their consciences as "training" for parliamentary elections to be held in October or November, in which the Brotherhood, running candidates as independents, hopes to garner as many as 20 per cent of seats. As many as 1,500 activists were rounded up by security forces earlier this year ahead of the polls and are languishing in prisons.

Several left-wing groups have joined George Ishak, the veteran Marxist, in a movement called Kefaya (Enough), boycotting the election and staging street protests, theoretically illegal under emergency legislation in force since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

"President Mubarak's election programme ... affirms the intention to continue to plunder wealth and power and violate the national will for change and for establishing a society of justice and freedom," Mr Ishak told a news conference yesterday.

Egyptian streets are decked with personality-cult style posters of Mr Mubarak showing him in front of Air Force MiG jets, or in front of mosques and Coptic churches, underlining his policy of religious tolerance. Opposition groups say local councils have obliged shopkeepers to paste up the posters.

But Pope Shenouda III, the Patriarch of Egypt's 10 million Coptic Christians, upset many people when he endorsed Mr Mubarak as "a leader who is passionate about wisdom and tolerance. All Coptic leaders ... have signed a declaration in support of Mubarak since he has great knowledge and good relations with all leaders of the Arab world and beyond," Pope Shenouda said.

Milad Hanna, an urban planner and Coptic intellectual, said "the Pope has the personal right to vote for Mubarak, but that is his own will. We ... do not need advice from anyone." Egyptian rights groups have said the election is unlikely to be free and fair because independent monitors cannot enter polling stations and the state press has backed Mr Mubarak. "I can declare now that this election will not be a fair and free election," said Negad el-Borai, the head of the Group for Democratic Development. A court ruled on Saturday that monitors would be allowed into the polling stations, but the election committee, which has the final say, rejected the ruling.

The government said on Saturday that a terror attack in July at Sharm El Sheikh had been linked to Egyptian militants who attacked international observers in the Sinai last month. The official report dismissed media reports at the time that Pakistani militants were involved.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit