Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the nation's longtime leader, first came into power in 1981.

He leads the world's largest Arab nation in terms of population at just over 80 million. Egypt is the 16th largest country overall. Egypt's capital, Cairo, is also one of the world's largest cities with a city-proper population of 6.8 million, according to a 2006 Census.

Its geographic position as the main land link between Africa and the Middle East, its control of a major shipping route (the Suez Canal links the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean), and its proximity to Israel make Egypt a key player in Middle Eastern geopolitics.

The government is dominated by one party, the National Democratic Party (NDP). It has overwhelmingly large majorities in its legislative system, and controls the government's executive branch, led by Mubarak.

The 2005 election saw some changes from the previous ones, as it was a multicandidate popular vote. Previously, the President was nominated by the People's Assembly and the nomination was validated by a national referendum.

Mubarak won the country's most recent election in 2005 with 88.6 percent of the vote. The nation is expected to have another in September of 2011.

The nation is largely Muslim (mostly Sunni) at 90 percent, while much of the remainder - about 9 percent - is Coptic Christian. Egypt's Constitution forbids political parties based on religion.

Egypt gained partial independence from Britain in 1922, acquiring full sovereignty when the British-backed monarchy was overthrown in 1952.