Sunday morning, President Hosni Mubarak is scheduled to address a joint session of the upper and lower houses of the Egyptian parliament.
The President's speech comes against a backdrop of continuing political fury over the overwhelming dominance secured by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), chaired by Mubarak, in the new parliament. It also comes amidst intense speculation on the future of the presidency beyond next October — the end of President Mubarak's fifth term in office.
However, it seems unlikely that the anger of the political opposition nor the anticipation of many over the fate of the presidency will be satiated by Mubarak's speech.
Informed parliamentary sources tell Ahram Online that the issue of parliamentary elections was addressed by Mubarak in his speech before the NDP Parliamentary Committee last week, and that even if the issue comes up in Mubarak's speech it would be in a very general sense.
According to the same sources, Mubarak is not set to end speculation over the presidency and whether he would take up a sixth term in 2011, at which time he will have turned 83. The speech is expected, however, to address issues of the future, some long term. The speech will also reiterate, sources say, the state's commitment to work for the interests of the economically underprivileged.
"We have an extended list of legislation meant to improve the quality of lives of Egyptian citizens; this is our focus now," said a parliamentary source. Mubarak is also expected to express commitment to preserving Egypt's national unity.
According to an official source, the fact that Mubarak chose to include seven Coptic figures out of 10 he is entitled to appoint in parliament is a clear indication of his commitment to ensuring the inclusion of Copts in Egypt's political system.
The women elected by quota to in the new People's Assembly (over 60 seats) is also expected to be recognised by the president.
Controversial issues are expected to be alluded to, but not directly raised. Of these is the unfinished business of drafting the anti-terrorism law which Mubarak, in his 2005 presidential campaign, promised would replace the perpetual state of emergency that has been in application since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Political scientist Moustafa Kamel El-Sayed does not have great expectations of Mubarak's speech on Sunday. The president, he argues, does not qualify his speech as an address to the nation, whereby he is expected to share future political plans. "The speech would be like every other speech — traditional and without any surprises."
For the speech to make a significant difference to Egyptians, El-Sayed argues, Mubarak would need to acknowledge the considerable violations that marred the recent parliamentary elections, and to say frankly whether or not he is planning to run for a new term in office, and it is unlike the president, who likes to keep his cards close to his chest, to reveal this kind of information."