CAIRO - The annual conference of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) kicked off Saturday as opposition groups were to hold a parallel gathering to discuss accusations of fraud in the country's recent parliamentary elections.
Held under the slogan 'To Secure the Future of Your Children,' thousands of NDP leaders and members gathered in Cairo to discuss party policies.
Opposition groups secured only a handful of seats in the poll for the lower house last month, while the NDP strengthened considerably its hold on power in the 518-seat People's Assembly.
President Hosni Mubarak, the 82-year-old who has ruled for nearly 30 years, is scheduled to address the conference in the evening.
'The conference will try to deliver the message that the majority of Parliament will seek to work for the best interests of the people of Egypt,' Ali Eddin Helal, head of the party's media committee, said on the NDP's website.
Opposition group April 6 has scheduled a gathering of its own, to coincide with the NDP conference. The grouping was to discuss a proposal to establish a 'shadow parliament,' in light of the fraud allegations.
Leading opposition figures are expected to attend the meeting, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which failed to secure seats in the People's Assembly, though it was the second largest bloc in the lower house going into the elections.
Human rights groups said the election was rife with violence and rigging that favoured the NDP, which won over 80 per cent of the vote.
The elections were seen as an indicator ahead of next year's presidential poll, when Mubarak is expected to run again for the office, if his ailing health does not stand in the way.