Egypt will open nominations on April 15 for the first presidential election since Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising last year, a member of the ruling army council told a television channel on Sunday.
The army has pledged to hand power to civilians after a presidential vote in June, although protesters have demanded that the ruling military council quit power sooner.
General Mohsen Fangary made the comments to an Egyptian television channel that were shown on its website, according to Reuters.
Fangary underlined that the Egypt’s ruling system will remain presidential and not parliamentarian, according to Egypt’s al-Ahram daily. He added that the president is responsible of forming the government. “Changing that system requires a constitutional amendment,” he said.
Mubarak won Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential vote in 2005 that was marred by abuses and held under rules that prevented any realistic challenge to the incumbent.
Sayed al-Badawi, the head of the liberal Wafd party, said after a meeting of political groups last week a referendum on the new constitution would be held on May 15 and a presidential vote on June 20, in line with a previously announced army timetable.
Nobel peace prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei’s decision to quit the race for the presidency was seen in Egypt as a slap in the face for military rulers and one depriving liberals of a key force.
The ex-U.N. nuclear watchdog chief made the surprise announcement Saturday, days before Egypt is set to celebrate the first anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution that ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
“My conscience does not allow me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless there is real democracy,” ElBaradei said in a statement, according to AFP.
He charged that old regime figures still ruled the country, accused them of repressive tactics and criticized what he said were “botched” moves to draw up a constitution after the election later this year of a new president.
The SCAF has repeatedly pledged to cede full powers to civilian rule when a president is elected by the end of June, but there is widespread belief that the military wants to maintain a political role in the future.
Presidential hopefuls like former Arab League chief Amr Mussa and opposition figures like Ayman Nour lamented ElBaradei’s decisions with some fearing that it could destroy the aspirations of liberals to reform Egypt.
Moussa, one of 10 contenders for the presidency, expressed confidence that ElBaradei “will pursue his efforts to rebuild the country.”
Nour, who challenged Mubarak in the 2005 election, and who still eyes the presidency despite spending time in jail, praised ElBaradei as “the president of the Egyptian conscience,” media reported.
His departure is a “kiss of life to the revolution,” Nour was quoted as saying.
Some Islamists however argued that Egypt’s most prominent liberal stood down because of the crushing victory won by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party (FJP) in just-wrapped legislative polls.
“He did well by pulling out. He knows he wasn't welcome by Islamists groups and most of the people support the choices of the Islamists,” Mohamed Hassan Hammad, a Gamaa Islamiyya spokesman, told al-Masry al-Youm newspaper.
Mohammad Radwan of the Salafist ultra-conservative al-Nour party, was quoted by the paper as saying that “ElBaradei quit because he saw that the Egyptian people voted for Islamists in the election.”
“I would have hoped that ElBaradei was more persevering,” Saad al-Katatni, FJP secretary general, said on a television talk show, praising ElBaradei as a “true nationalist.”
An FJP party spokesman told AFP ElBaradei’s move “is his personal decision.”