The Egyptian parliament today passed an election law, unanimously rejected by opposition members, that effectively makes President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party the only party running in next year's parliamentary elections.
The law, which was endorsed at the conclusion of a stormy debate by an overwhelming majority, calls for proportional representation, with a minimum of 8 percent of the vote required for representation in parliament.
The National Democratic Party, formed by the late president Anwar Sadat, controls more than 90 percent of the seats of the lower house, whose term expires next June.
Three tiny opposition parties, which at first voiced support for the new electoral system, have agreed to boycott the upcoming elections to protest the minimum percentage requirement. They are the Socialist Labor Party with 10 of the 392 seats, the Liberal Socialist Party with three seats and the Nationalist Unionist Progressive rally, which is not represented.
The Socialist Labor Party's vice president, Helmi Murad, expressed fears that the minimum requirement may be a pretext for preventing the opposition from winning future elections.
During the past few months, Mubarak frequently has criticized the performance of the opposition parties as irresponsible, self-centered and seeking to destroy national unity.
The new election rules also will prevent political figures belonging to the dissolved Wafd party from running as independents.