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Last Updated: Monday, 5 September 2005, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Egypt's Mubarak appeals to voters
Hosni Mubarak's final campaign rally
Hosni Mubarak is the overwhelming favourite on Wednesday
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appealed for voters to back his efforts to introduce democratic reforms.

It was his final election speech delivered late on Sunday in Cairo, as campaigning in the country's first multi-candidate poll came to a close.

Mr Mubarak, who is seeking re-election for a fifth term after 24 years in power, is widely expected to win.

The election, set for Wednesday, has been dogged by controversy over who should monitor voting.

In the latest development, the government-appointed electoral commission has rejected a court ruling allowing independent groups to monitor the vote.

Mr Mubarak is being challenged by eight other candidates, but correspondents say most are virtually unknown to Egyptian voters.

'No more referenda'

Mr Mubarak told the rally that if re-elected he would guarantee more freedom, a stronger economy and a foreign policy which would be honourable for Egypt in the region.

ELECTION FACTS
If no candidate polls 50%, the two with the highest number of votes proceed to round two
Egyptians over 18 are required to vote by law. There are over 32m registered voters out of a population of some 74.9m
Presidents elected for six year term

"The age of referenda and pledging allegiances is over," Mr Mubarak assured a crowd of supporters.

"Those who want to support me, should give me their vote. [Those who] are convinced by my vision and my programme must express that in the ballot boxes."

In previous elections, Egyptians have simply been offered the choice of backing or rejecting a single candidate selected by parliament, which is dominated by Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

Monitors 'banned'

On Sunday, Egypt's electoral commission said it would not allow independent groups to monitor Wednesday's, defying a court ruling.

I'm positive Hosni Mubarak will be re-elected, so why bother and vote?
Tina, Cairo, Egypt

The commission said only supervisors, candidates and their representatives would be allowed in polling stations.

The decision has fuelled fears of vote rigging by the ruling party.

On Saturday, the Egyptian judiciary overruled a ban by the government-appointed commission prohibiting local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from monitoring the poll.

But the electoral commission chief, Osama Attawiyah, told the BBC that the ban would remain in force.

He also said the commission would consider invalid a court decision to exclude one of the presidential candidates.

International monitors are not being allowed to observe the elections either.

The BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi in Cairo says although most Egyptians believe this is an election with a foregone conclusion, 18 days of campaigning have created a lively debate about the country's many social and economic ills.

As a result, for the first time in many years, public attention has focused on domestic problems instead of the usual geo-political conflicts, such as the Arab-Israeli disputes or the violence in Iraq, our analyst says.


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