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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK
Low turnout mars Mubarak win
By Ian Pannell
BBC News, Cairo

Egyptian street vendor holds up a copy of a paper on election day
Mubarak has been urged to boost democracy in the country
Egyptian incumbent Hosni Mubarak has won an overwhelming victory in the country's first ever contested presidential election.

He received nearly 90% of the vote, although less than a quarter of eligible voters turned out.

Opposition parties are claiming irregularities have marred the poll and have questioned the results.

The election has been hailed as a breakthrough for democratic reform in the region.

There was never any doubt that Mr Mubarak would win this election.

What mattered more was the way in which he was to achieve his victory.

Egypt has been under pressure from Washington, as well as opposition groups, to introduce democratic reform.

Earlier this year, he responded by proposing a constitutional amendment that paved the way for a handful of candidates to challenge for the presidency.

Lukewarm reception

But all along Mr Mubarak had the resources and recognition that kept others at bay.

And the scale of his victory is likely to undermine the credibility of the process.

As one Egyptian commentator put it, "democratically elected leaders don't get 88% of the vote".

The problem for the reformers is not that there were some reports of fraud, it is that the vast majority of people chose to stay at home, sceptical or apathetic that this election would be different.

There is little in these results to dissuade them.

Although Washington has already welcomed the election, the reception in the Arab world has been more muted.

There may be a receptive climate to change in parts of the Middle East but there is also a deep reservoir of caution.

If Mr Mubarak's legacy is to be that of the country's first democratic leader, he will have to introduce more meaningful reform.

Egypt may be on the road to democracy but with this election it has not arrived just yet.

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