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President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday asked parliament to amend a controversial constitution article that had been criticized as being tailored to allow his son to succeed him.
The opposition had been demanding that the article be changed, claiming it opened the way for Gamal Mubarak, the president's youngest son, to become Egypt's leader.
Hosni Mubarak said Sunday he wants parliament to amend article 76 to make it easier for candidates from various political parties to run for president. He did not provide details.
"I will ask for a new amendment for article 76 to complete and achieve the goals of last year's amendment," Mubarak told the parliament in a speech marking the beginning of the new session.
Mubarak said that the new session will witness "the biggest and widest range constitutional amendments since 1980."
Parliament speaker Fathi Sorour announced in late October that changing article 76 was one of the political reforms Mubarak plans to undertake next year.
The article was first rewritten last year under the pretex of allowing multicandidate presidential elections. But the opposition contends it deliberately made it impossible for anyone to compete against the ruling party in the next presidential elections in 2011.
Article 76 provides that independent candidates must obtain 250 recommendations from members of parliament or city councils before they can enter the race. Because most political offices are held by Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, opposition parties fear they won't be able to field any presidential candidate.
The article also rules that only political parties representing at least five percent of Parliament can put forward a presidential candidate. No political party achieved this in last year's legislative elections. It also doesn't allow for Egypt's largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, to enter the race because the group is officially banned.
The NDP previously refused to amend the article, and Egypt's opposition said this demonstrated that Mubarak's party was planning to clear the path for his son to take power.
Gamal Mubarak, 42, has risen rapidly through the ranks of his father's party in recent years and is now deputy secretary general. Despite his denials, many believe he is being groomed to succeed Mubarak, who is 78 and has been in power since 1981.
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