Secretary-General of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) Safwat el-Sherif has said the party’s candidate for the 2011 presidential elections would not be disclosed before the end of this year, setting this year's parliamentary polls as a priority.
"We are in an election year. Preparations for the Shura Council elections and the People's Assembly's [the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament respectively] are the party's top priority at present and throughout the year," el-Sherif told Al-Hurra, US Arabic-language satellite TV, Sunday night.
"Until these decisive votes end, there will be no talk about the 2011 presidential elections," el-Sherif declared.
Sherif, who heads the Shura Council, also refused a claim that the ruling party was seeking hereditary rule in Egypt, stressing that the Egyptian Constitution obviously specifies the procedures to run for presidency.
"We have a republican system of rule. If [they meet] the conditions to run for Egypt's top post, anyone can go ahead," he stated.
He declined to comment on claims that Gamal Mubarak, the son of President Hosni Mubarak and the NDP's Policies Secretary, is being groomed to succeed his father. Both Mubaraks have denied there are any such plans.
Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981, has never appointed a vice-president, and it is not clear if he will run in next year’s elections.
"I repeat: the NDP works according to the institutional system. Whoever the party backs can run for presidency," el-Sherif said.
Earlier in January, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has said he would be willing to run for president in 2011, returned from Vienna, where he headed the International Atomic Energy Agency until the end of 2009, and asked for constitutional amendments.
Mubarak amended the Constitution in 2005 to allow for Egypt's first competitive presidential elections, in which he swept the board.
El-Sherif has denied rumours that the NDP was brokering deals with some political blocs over the elections, namely the banned Muslim Brotherhood, whose members run as independent.
"All reports about such deals are baseless. Our dialogue with political parties are clear and open; there is nothing under the table," el-Sherif said.
Rumours have recently been rife that the NDP was making a deal with the opposition Al-Wafd Party in order for the latter to have more seats in Parliament in a bid to weaken the Brotherhood, which hold 88 seats in the current house.
"The voters are the ones who decide which deputies will represent them. They are the ones to make the decision to side with this or that party," he stated.