Egypt’s Mubarak warns opposition, talks stability in first speech since surgery

Egypt’s Mubarak warns opposition, talks stability in first speech since surgery

CAIRO: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke out against the country’s growing opposition community in the ailing leader’s first public speech since having gall bladder surgery in Germany in March. He spoke directly to the activists, warning them against “gambling with stability.”

His comments come after police on April 6 and again a week later, violently put down two demonstrations in downtown Cairo. The activists, mostly young people, were demanding an end to the country’s Draconian Emergency Laws – in place nearly continuously since 1981 – and called for a change in the constitution to allow multiple candidates in an “open and free” presidential election.

“I say with sincerity and frankness that I welcome the interplay and movement in society, as long as it follows the constitution,” he said in the television speech to mark 28 years since Israel withdrew from Sinai. He added that the future of the country would not be decided by “empty slogans and vituperation.”

It is unclear whether the 81-year-old president, in power since former President Anwar el-Sadat was shot and killed on October 6, 1981, at a military parade honoring the same victory in Sinai.

Mubarak has not said if he plans to run for another term in the 2011 election and many believe he has been grooming his son, Gamal, to take over as President in the next election. Neither have said otherwise, but neither have confirmed whether they would run for president.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei has galvanized a stalled opposition to action since his return to the country earlier this year. Many believe he would have a good chance to win a popular election, as he is seen as not corrupt, due to his lengthy time spent abroad.

He, too, has not said whether he would enter the contest, but has until June 1 to become the head of a political party if he has any chance of running a presidential campaign.

Republished with permission from bikya masr