On 25 May, a referendum was held on a government bill to change the presidential electoral system. About 17 million voters participated, and the bill was passed by an 82 per cent majority.

The 2005 multi-candidate presidential election was made possible by a change in article 76 of the Egyptian constitution, which permits direct presidential elections with more than one candidate, instead of the previous system of a national referendum on a single candidate selected by the People’s Assembly (parliament).

Party representatives and independent candidates are now able to run for president. However, an independent candidate must meet certain conditions – they must have the support of at least 250 elected representatives from the Shoura Council, the People’s Assembly and local councils – effectively excluding many political parties and their candidates.

To run in the 2011 presidential elections, moreover, a candidate must be from a party that has been legally active for at least five consecutive years, and whose members have in previous elections won at least 5 per cent of the seats in both the People’s Assembly and the Shoura Council. Opposition groups say this ruling unfairly discriminates in favour of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).