UN Office for the Coordination
EGYPT: Year in Brief 2005 - Chronology of democratic events
DUBAI, 9 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - November 2004: The Popular Campaign for Reform, a recently-established social opposition movement composed of several civil society groups, petitioned President Hosni Mubarak for broad constitutional reforms. The petition, signed by 700 activists, called for direct elections and a limit to the number of terms a president can serve. This was considered a relatively radical move, breaking political taboos in Egypt.
12 December 2004: Hundreds of Egyptians demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court in Cairo to protest President Mubarak’s lengthy tenure. This was Egypt's first major public demonstration to call for an end to Mubarak's 24-year rule.
29 January 2005: Ayman Nour, head of the newly established opposition al-Ghad or "Tomorrow" Party, was arrested because of allegations that he forged party documents. Given ample coverage by western media, Nour became one of the most outspoken critics of the Cairo regime.
26 February: President Mubarak asked parliament to change the constitution to allow multi-candidate presidential elections. The move came after calls by local activists and the US administration in Washington, for democratic reforms. Mubarak took the step after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled a scheduled visit to Cairo. The move was welcomed by Washington as a step towards a more open political system.
10 May: Egyptian parliament approved the amendment of Article 76 of the constitution to allow multi-candidate presidential elections for the first time. While the new law allows legal political parties to put forward presidential candidates, it also has restrictions largely targeting independent candidates.
The amendment stipulates that in order to stand for election, independent candidates must gather the signatures of 300 elected officials from the Peoples Assembly, the Shura Council and municipal councils. Political parties must also be at least five years old to nominate candidates. The officially banned-but-tolerated Muslim Brotherhood - seen as the country’s strongest political opposition force - has been forced to field its candidates as independents.
25 May: A national referendum was held on the constitutional amendment. Opposition movements called for a boycott of the poll to protest the restrictions imposed by any changes. Demonstrators were reportedly beaten by thugs operating in the service of the government. According to the official results of the poll, 83 percent of voters approved the amendment.
7 September: Ten candidates ran for the presidency in Egypt's first contested presidential elections. Several smaller independent parties boycotted the elections, including the leftist Tagammu and Pan-Arab Nasserist parties. Major demonstrations also occurred in central Cairo, organised by the recently-established Kifaya, or “Enough,” movement, a loose confederation of unofficial pro-democracy groups. Unlike demonstrations held on the day of the referendum, however, protestors did not encounter harassment by security forces.
28 September: President Mubarak was sworn in before the Egyptian parliament for a fifth presidential term. He vowed to implement his campaign promises on job creation and political reforms.
9 November–7 December: Three rounds of hard-fought parliamentary elections were held, resulting in massive gains for the opposition, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition won almost 100 of the 444 elected seats in the People’s Assembly – up from only 40 in the outgoing assembly. Of these, 88 were won by candidates affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The ruling NDP was left with 315 seats, noticeably fewer than the 388 representatives in the outgoing assembly but still above the two-thirds majority needed to control legislation.
Highlighting the weakness of the secular opposition, non-brotherhood-affiliated parties won a total of only 14 seats between them. This included the neo-liberal Wafd Party, traditionally touted as Egypt’s strongest opposition party. The elections were marred by clashes between voters and security forces, leaving 12 dead.
24 December 2005: In a further blow to the secular opposition, Al-Ghad Party chief Nour, who ran against Mubarak in presidential elections earlier in 2005, was sentenced to five years in prison. Nour was found guilty of fraud charges that his supporters insist are politically motivated.
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