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Sunday, 15 September, 2002, 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK
Egypt ruling party courts the young
Cairo street scene
Younger Egyptians are not interested in party politics

Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) is on Sunday starting a congress billed by organisers as a key turning point in its history.

The NDP is expected to adopt changes aimed at democratising the party's structures and attracting new members.

The changes are being spearheaded by Gamal Mubarak, the son of President Hosni Mubarak.

Gamal Mubarak
Mubarak Jr is taking on the old guard
Although he has repeatedly denied that he wants to succeed his father as president, his activities are fuelling speculation.

This is the first time in Egypt that an NDP congress has attracted so much attention.

The general view has always been that the party is just another instrument in the hands of an all-powerful executive.

It has no real say in policy, though those associated with it often wield influence and exploit it to enrich themselves.

This year's party congress comes amidst talk of a shake-up. Party officials say they want to attract young members, introduce democratic procedures and launch real debate about policy.

Heir apparent?

NDP reform by itself would not have been enough to interest most Egyptians.

But the country has been riveted in recent weeks by a series of corruption scandals, involving the arrest of close associates of the three senior ministers who run the NDP.

The old guard, many say, are being undermined to make way for Gamal Mubarak.

Some also speculate the young Mr Mubarak is being groomed to succeed his father. But observers caution that might be a hasty conclusion.

They say the difficult regional situation and Egypt's faltering economy have created a pressing need for political renewal.

The president, they say, is responding by reviving the NDP and reining in corruption.

But they argue it is such a delicate task that it can be done only by someone like Gamal Mubarak, who derives his power directly from the president.

See also:

29 Jul 02 | Middle East
23 Jul 02 | Media reports
16 Jul 02 | Islamic world
26 Oct 00 | Middle East
16 May 02 | Country profiles
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