Egypt's ruling party inaugurates its fifth annual conference

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) begins its fifth annual conference on Saturday morning with a total of 2,700 delegates participating, reported dpa.

On the first day, NDP chairman President Hosny Mubarak is expected to address the 3-day gathering convened under the banner "A New Style of Thinking for the Future of Our Country," focusing on the challenges facing Egypt.

Mubarak's speech is to outline the party's vision and strategy in dealing with the global food and financial crisis.

A day would be devoted to the impact of global financial meltdown on Egypt, Gamal Essam el-Din, an Egyptian journalist specialized in parliamentary affairs told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

NDP Secretary-General Safwat el-Sherif will then address the conference with a speech reviewing the party's performance over the past 12 months.

The conference will also review progress made towards implementing President Mubarak's 2005 presidential election programme.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif is scheduled to deliver a speech on Sunday highlighting the government's success in implementing the programme three years after it was announced in the summer of 2005.

The conference's most important debates will be led by Gamal Mubarak, President Mubarak's 45-year-old son and chairman of NDP's powerful Policies Committee.

He will begin by reviewing "The Strategic Vision of the Ruling Party", a wide-ranging report compiled by the Policies Committee and which covers poverty eradication, economic trends, citizenship rights and democratisation, said Essam el-Din.

The third day of the conference will include a press conference with Gamal Mubarak, at which questions about his political ambitions are expected to be posed.

Gamal Mubarak has been the focus of speculation regarding his expected succession of his father since 2002, when he became chairman of the NDP's Central Policies Committee.

Both he and President Mubarak have repeatedly denied such ambitions.

Meanwhile, opposition groups, including the unofficial coalition Kifaya, have said they will prepare an alternative agenda to that propagated by the NDP conference.

Kifaya leader George Ishaq told the Cairo-based English language newspaper al-Ahram Weekly that the group will focus on criticising NDP economic policies which for more than three decades have been skewed in favour of the rich.

According to Ishaq, the NDP's policies made the rich richer and the poor poorer. He added that less than one per cent of Egyptians are dominating wealth and power and more than half of the population are living below the poverty line.

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