Egypt’s ElBaradei pulls out of presidency race, says ‘old regime’ still in charge

Former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei said there was no room for him in Egyptian politics because old symbols of the regime were still running the country and charged that preparations to draw a new constitution were “botched.” (AFP)

Former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday he would not run for the Egyptian presidency because “the previous regime” was still running the country, ruled by army generals since Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

“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.

ElBaradei has been a vocal critic of the military council which has been governing Egypt since Mubarak was toppled in February, swept from power by mass protests driven by demands for accountable and democratic government.

ElBaradei said there was no room for him in Egyptian politics because old symbols of the regime were still running the country and charged that preparations to draw a new constitution were “botched.”

“I have examined the best ways of serving the goals of the revolution and I found that there is no official post for me, not even the presidency,” ElBaradei said.

“Preparations are being made to elect a president before the establishment of a constitution that would organize relations between the (judicial, executive, legislative) powers and protect liberties,” he said.

He praised the revolutionary youths who led massive popular uprisings that ousted president Hosni Mubarak last year but said “the former regime did not fall.”

The military council’s opponents say it is seeking to preserve power and privilege in the post-Mubarak era and do not believe the generals’ repeated promises that they will surrender power to civilian rule at the end of June.

Headed by the man who was Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades, the military council says it has no interest in government and is working to move Egypt towards democracy.

ElBaradei took aim at the way the transition was being managed. “The randomness and the mismanagement of the transitional period are pushing the country away from the aims of the revolution,” he said in a statement.

“I know that after the revolution, all of us had big hopes and dreams that we will change this regime in a short period, including the military council, which announced that we will have a six-month transitional period,” ElBaradei said in a video he released on YouTube, following his first statement.

“I had doubts, of course, based on my expertise that it is impossible after long decades to move into a democratic state after six months. But the transitional period was managed in the worst possible ways.”

His remarks added to a recent wave of criticism targeting the generals. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said this week they looked unlikely to surrender all of their powers by the middle of the year, as promised.

His Carter Center, which has been monitoring the legislative elections, said the council’s lack of transparency had created “uncertainty about their commitment to full civilian leadership”.

ElBaradei was head of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 until 2009. In 2010, he returned to Egypt and began to speak out against Mubarak’s rule. He took part in the protests that led to Mubarak’s downfall on Feb. 11.

A favorite of Egyptian liberals and pro-democracy activists, the bespectacled lawyer was initially seen as a leading candidate for the presidency.

Many Egyptians saw in him an ideal candidate to steer the most populous Arab country into democracy.

Rather than join a political party, the 69-year-old ElBaradei created a movement of his own to act as an umbrella for a range of opposition groups -- the National Association for Change.

But in 2010 he boycotted elections, saying that there was no hope of them being free and fair, and lost many fans along the way.

His coalition took a beating in the latest marathon elections that wrapped up this week while Islamists won a crushing victory and are estimated to have clinched 70 percent of seats in the next parliament.

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