94% Vote 'Yes' To Mubarak

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak won his fourth six-year term, taking almost 94 percent of the vote in a referendum on his presidency, the interior minister said today.

The 71-year-old president, one of Washington's closest Middle Eastern allies, was the only candidate in Sunday's yes-or-no referendum. Opposition groups boycotted the ballot, calling it a sham and urging the president to initiate direct, multiparty elections.

Despite the almost universal support, it was the first time the Â"YesÂ" vote fell below 95 percent in a presidential referendum. During the presidency of Mubarak's predecessor, the late Anwar Sadat, the Â"YesÂ" vote was invariably 99.9 percent.

In his previous referendums, Mubarak received more than 95 percent. In 1993, the last plebiscite, he got 96 percent.

The turnout was 79.2 percent or 18.9 million of the 24 million eligible voters, el-Adli said.

Egypt's constitution does not allow for a presidential election. Instead, the elected parliament, the People's Assembly, nominates one candidate for the referendum. The 454-member house, dominated by Mubarak's National Democratic Party, chose Mubarak in July.

Mubarak, who was vice president under Sadat, was first elected president in 1981 after Sadat's assassination by Islamic radicals.

He is respected for his economic achievements. He has significantly reduced Egypt's foreign debt, balanced the budget and cut inflation to about 3 percent, making the country one of the more diverse and open economies in the Middle East.

Internationally, he has pushed forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and prodded Libya toward surrendering the two suspects wanted for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

But opposition leaders call for democratic reforms and the lifting of the state emergency which has been in force since Sadat's assassination. They demand the freedom to form political parties and associations, which can only be created with the approval of a government committee.

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