The article incorrectly said that Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party is the only party legally eligible to field a presidential candidate. A 10-year provision in a 2007 constitutional amendment made it possible for registered political parties that have a single seat in parliament and have been in operation for five years to field a candidate.
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In Egypt, A Son Is Readied for Succession
Egypt's military has picked the country's rulers for more than half a century. Nasser, Sadat and Hosni Mubarak came from the officer corps, whose endorsement is still seen as essential for whoever wishes to be president.
What Egypt's military and security services are looking for, some analysts argue, is Hosni Mubarak II -- a leader who will preserve the Camp David accord with Israel and the U.S. military aid that comes with it, maintain relations with the United States and Europe, and continue medical, housing and other benefits for military officers.
"The security services, the army, basically are interested in maintaining the status quo," Cook said, adding that Gamal Mubarak and his allies are said to be building relations with senior officers to overcome his perceived handicap of not having served in the military.
The ruling party is a third constituency vital for the next president.
Since taking control of the party's policy committee, Mubarak has helped push through initiatives expanding the party's powers and blocking opposition challengers. Among the changes was a constitutional amendment adopted this spring banning religious political groups.
That helped shut out the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition movement, in June elections for parliament's upper house after the group's strong showing in 2005 elections for the lower house.
Across the Middle East, the sons who assumed power in the 1990s and earlier this decade did so while promising greater freedoms than their fathers allowed.
"It never happens," said Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University. "People always think, 'He uses the Internet and he speaks good English and therefore he won't be like his parents,' but it never seems to work out that way," Lynch said by telephone.
At the youth conference where Gamal Mubarak spoke, held last month at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, he sounded much like his father -- stressing stability rather than democratic reforms.
"Here in Egypt we are enjoying peace and security, and that is why we are moving forward in progress and change," he said.
The forum was convened by Suzanne Mubarak and gathered mostly middle-class and upper-class young Egyptians. One of the young women grilling Gamal Mubarak from the audience wore a Rolex on the arm she raised to hold the microphone.
Organizers hope such events will help rally Egypt's upper class, as the Muslim Brotherhood has rallied Egypt's poor, an official with the government said, speaking on condition he not be identified.
"There's nothing wrong with having haves and have-nots," the official said, adding that the affluent young needed help overcoming their "shame" at coming from educated, cultured and well-off families.
Seeing Gamal Mubarak left some of them unconvinced.
"I think he has to reveal to us what he can do and what is the significant thing he has as a person," Noha Ahmed, a 26-year-old with a master's degree, said after Mubarak spoke. "We all need to feel if he's going to do it, then it's his own effort."