It came on the Egyptian scene as a storm, the announcement on Saturday by the former chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei that he was pulling out of the Egyptian presidential race.
ElBaradei knows quite well that taking such a step at this time would definitely shake the country. The parliamentary elections have just ended and the Islamists made sweeping gains, whether through the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis. In the meantime, other political powers, who gained nothing through the elections, are preparing for a big day on Jan. 25 to mark the first anniversary of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
In his statement, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) explained that the reason behind his withdrawal was the lack of a real democratic system in which he can run for the presidency or any other post. ElBaradei said that "the regime has not fallen yet.”
He added in his statement that he has studied all the means through which he can serve the revolution’s aims but has not found a place within the official framework from which this can be accomplished. He added that even the presidency cannot accomplish that without a constitution that dictates authorities and protects freedoms, or with a constitution that will be hurriedly drafted in a matter of a few weeks.
ElBaradei added that his decision does not mean a complete withdrawal from the political scene, and that he will continue serving society “outside any positions of power, freed from all the chains." He further added “my conscience will not allow me to nominate myself to the presidency or any formal position without the presence of a real democratic framework that uses the essence of democracy, not just its image”.
I believe ElBaradei's decision was based on other hidden reasons. Above all is the loss of popular support over the past few months. ElBaradei used to enjoy wide support among many Egyptians for defying Mubarak’s regime and predicting its fall in 2011. Recently he has come under strong attack. The Muslim Brotherhood retreated from its support of him without a declared reason and has recently suggested other potential candidates. The Muslim Brotherhood has recently declared that it is likely that it will back a former foreign minister, Nabil al-Arabi, who currently heads the Arab League. But the latter said last week in an interview with Egypt's al-Hayat TV that he was not planning to run in the presidential race.
ElBaradei’s recent aggressive stances against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has left many believing that his prospects of winning the presidential race were low, as it was unlikely the military would allow it. ElBaradei has recently been outspoken about rights violations that characterized recent clashes between the military and protesters. He made several statements condemning SCAF’s role in guiding Egypt’s transition period.
News of ElBaradei’s withdrawal were met with a flood of comments on social media venues; some expressed shock and others disappointment or sarcasm. One comment wondered whether ElBaradei “was ever in the race,” implying that the Nobel-winner made no effort in his campaign.
Furthermore, on searching among the hidden reasons behind ElBaradei's decision, we have to mention that many Egyptian political parties and movements have called for nationwide protests on Jan. 25 to demand a swift transfer of power from military to civilian rule.
Many activists are even talking about the forthcoming Jan. 25 as to mark the beginning of a new revolution in Egypt, arguing that none of the Jan. 25 demands have been met.
These calls actually sound the bell over more possible chaos in the country, and could presage further bloody clashes. The withdrawal of ElBaradei at this critical timing, and his statements about the regime that has "not fallen yet,” all put many question marks over his real intentions. I can't help but ask him, why now Mr. ElBaradei?!