Alexandria -- Ayman Nour, founder of the opposition Al-Ghad Party and former presidential candidate, has called for holding an open debate with parliamentary speaker and ruling party stalwart Fathi Sorour. Nour hopes to use the debate to refute recent statements by Sorour concerning the legal restrictions barring him from making a second bid for the presidency in upcoming elections scheduled for 2011.
Nour said on Sunday that Sorour had based his statements on a law drawn from the French legal code in 1937 -- although the law was later abolished in France -- banning those indicted in criminal cases from running for state leadership positions.
"Since the 1971 amendment of Egypt's constitution, the Supreme Constitutional Court has issued many verdicts that completely ignored the French legal code, which we use here in Egypt, meaning that I can run for office," Nour declared.
Nour also said that, when abroad, Sorour often discussed the possibility of the inheritance of the presidency from President Hosni Mubarak to his 46-year-old son Gamal, while refraining to talk about the issue at home.
On the persecution to which he says he is regularly subjected by the government, Nour said: "Attorney-General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud barred me from going to Qatar to attend the third Anti-Corruption Conference."
Nour denied having any relationship with foreign governments, insisting that he works only with non-governmental organizations concerned with promoting democracy in the Arab world.
He went on to urge that upcoming presidential elections be held under full judicial supervision. "Otherwise, they will be the most rigged elections in Egyptian history," he said.
"The Al-Ghad party will not support presidential bids by either [prominent physicist] Ahmed Zewail or [UN nuclear watchdog chief] Mohamed el-Baradei unless they present clear programs on economic and democratic reform," Nour concluded.