When the Egyptian people vote for president in September, they may have the opportunity to choose from among more than one person. In the past, the Egyptian parliament selected a single presidential candidate who was then approved or rejected by the voters. But Egypt's upper house of parliament has approved a constitutional amendment that would allow the first multi-candidate presidential election. It is now up to Egypt's lower house of parliament to give final approval to the amendment.
"Egypt needs more freedom and democracy," says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has been president since 1981 and proposed the amendment. "The move by President Mubarak is a positive one," says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "It begins to give to people a sense that they can start to compete in politics."
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian pro-democracy activist, says the possibility of a direct election "may well be a giant step for democracy in Egypt and the Arab world." Mona Makram Ebeid, secretary-general of the newly formed al-Ghad opposition party, says other important issues must be resolved:
"We hope that this is the floor and not the ceiling, because this amendment, as much as it is acclaimed, that it be linked with other amendments that should take place that have to do with lifting restrictions on social and political liberties. . . .but, of course, this is a ray of hope."
President George W. Bush says, "To serve your people you must learn to trust them":
"The great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle-East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."
In less than two months, democratic elections have been held in the Palestinian territories and in Iraq. Saudi Arabia took a tentative step by holding the first in a series of municipal elections. And in Lebanon, the resignation of Syrian-backed prime minister Omar Karami is seen as a victory for reform and democracy.
The Lebanese people vote for a new government in May. In the Middle East, and elsewhere, says President Bush, "When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.