El-Baradei ignites the Egyptian presidency battle early
Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, former president of the International Atomic Energy Agency, opened the “auction” of Egypt’s presidential election, to be held in 2011, by casting himself as the first candidates to fight it. He announced this through a statement he issued in Vienna immediately after leaving his post at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
It seems that the man who was the focus of the international media did not want to be moved away from the spotlights. He has been under the spotlights for nearly twelve years during his presidency of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
El-Baradei, who has handed over his duties last Tuesday to his successor, the Japanese Yukiya Omanwa, surprised Egyptian political circles with his statement which sparked a lot of controversy. This controversy is expected to last, according to experts, throughout the coming months. The man who was nominated by a number of opposition parties to be their representative in the upcoming elections outlined several conditions in his statement as a guarantee for fighting the presidential battle. Some representatives of the Egyptian opposition parties considered these conditions crippling. Some considered them to be a justification for not running the elections. The first conditions put by the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is total unanimity on his nomination by the majority of Egyptians. He also demanded the availability of a number of elements, including guarantees of the integrity of the electoral process, a full judicial supervision, an international monitoring of the elections by the United Nations, the establishment of an independent national committee to oversee the process, and a new constitution that guarantees freedoms and human rights.
“If I decide to run for high office, a position which I did not seek, it will be because the broad majority of the Egyptian people with their various affiliations see that this is in the best interest of the country” said El-Baradei. He called for the elimination of various constitutional and legal barriers restricting the right of the vast majority of Egyptian people to nominate themselves for the presidency. He also called for the need for a real and equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of partisan or personal considerations.
Under the constitutional amendment that was made in 2005, any person who wishes to run for the position of the president of Egypt has to be a member, for at least a year, and occupy a high ranking position in one of the official parties that has been founded five years ago at least. The independent candidate, on the other hand, must get the support of 250 members elected by the People’s Assembly, Shura Council and local councils, according to the numbers specified in article 76 of the Constitution, which was amended twice in two years. This further increases the difficulty of nominating El-Baradei.
Some Egyptian analysts drew attention to the fact that the conditions put forward by Mohamed El-Baradei to accept his candidacy for the presidential elections are a repeation of the conditions announced by the Egyptian opposition during the last period. Those conditions focused largely on the need to amend articles 76 and 77 of the Constitution, as they are the biggest obstacles that prevent the nomination to such a high position. This raised many questions about the significance of the statement issued by El-Baradei, as it does not specify a definite position consistent with the Egyptian constitution in its current form, which many are certain that the next presidential elections will be held according to it.
Some said that despite El-Baradei’s international stature, he is not fit to run for the Egyptian presidency. According to them he has stayed away from the country for more than 20 years and is not aware of what Egypt needs in the next period.
Some members of the liberal Wafd Party, the second largest Egyptian political party, confirmed that the party was among the first of the Egyptian political parties that called the nomination of El-Baradei for the presidency under its name. But Fouad Badrawi, deputy leader of the party, denied this. He said that the proposal for nominating El-Baradei was made by a few members of the party and that no official decision has been made regarding this matter. The party has yet to decide whether or not it was going to nominate a candidate for this high position.
Badrawi stressed that El-Baradei is a respected Egyptian figure, but his statement does not offer a solution to the current constitutional status, which El-Baradei wanted to replace by a new constitution. All he did was set down some conditions. He did not provide a clear vision.
For his part, Abdul Ghaffar Shokr, one of the leaders of the left-wing Tagammu party, said that the conditions made by El-Baradei for his nomination were no different form those which the Egyptian democracy movement has focused on during the past years. The conditions El-Baradei made in his statement show that he wanted to adopt the demands of the democratic movement in order to gain its trust.
Shokr stressed that every Egyptian citizen has the right to run for the presidential elections. However, if an international personality like Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei decides to run for the presidency, he would be welcomed, especially after ElBaradei demonstrated his political maturity through the points which he highlighted. He spoke about the need for his candidacy to go hand in hand with a comprehensive reform process, which is based on modernity, good governance, social justice and development of the education system.
But Shokr ruled out that any major official Egyptian party, namely AL-Wafd, Tagamwa and Nasserite, would support the nomination of ElBaradei. He said “These parties in addition to the Muslim Brotherhood will not defy the regime in any way by supporting ElBaradei, because they oppose the regime on a limited scale”. Moreover, ElBaradei is not viewed by some as the best candidate for the presidency.
Shokr also expected that if ElBaradei decides to go ahead with his candidacy, his favorite alternative will be the popular forces that began to emerge recently through electronic masses and professional unions. Dr. Mohamed Habib, first deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide described the statement by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei as “useless” because the ruling regime in Egypt will not respond to him or fulfill his conditions. He indicated that the regime had no willingness to achieve a comprehensive political reform. Moreover, the conditions set by ElBaradei are incomplete.
Along with these conditions, certain elements must be achieved such as ending the state of emergency, ensuring public liberties, including freedom of the press, establishing political parties, allowing peaceful demonstrations, abolishing special laws and courts and limiting the presidency period to two terms only.
Moreover, Habib did not rule out that ElBaradei has set these conditions – which are difficult to achieve – as a future excuse if he does not run for the elections. He pointed out that the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood on supporting ElBaradei would be determined in light of fulfilling the conditions he announced in addition to other conditions that I have mentioned.
In case other candidates run for the presidential elections, people will have the opportunity to vote for ElBaradei or other candidates, but first this requires abolishing all restrictions on the nomination.
But Mamdouh Qenawi, head of the Free Social Constitutional Party dismisses Habib’s talk, and considers the announcement by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei to stand for the upcoming presidential elections as an important step that would change the balance on the political arena. Qenawi said that the political arena lacks personalities that are capable of making a change, in reference to parliament member Talaat Sadat, the nephew of late President Anwar Sadat, and the leading politician Ayman Nour, former president of the opposition Ghad Party and runner-up in previous elections.
He said that ElBaradei has a broad international expertise due to his long term at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He pointed out that the statement of ElBaradei indicates that he knows Egypt’s problems quite well. Therefore, when it is said that he lives outside Egypt and does not know anything about it is not true. Qenawi confirmed his party’s readiness to support ElBaradei in case he runs for the presidential elections, whether he joined the party, or not, because the interests of the country surpass those of the party. He said that the party has already expressed its willingness to accept ElBaradei as a member and welcomed his candidacy and they stand by their position. The reason is that ElBaradei constitutes a value and a symbol that can lead Egypt in the coming period.
He pointed out that the conditions announced by ElBaradei may seem to many people as an attempt to skip the candidacy because it is hard to achieve. But the truth is different; ElBaradei is trying through these conditions to face the impossible conditions set forth in Article 76 on the nomination for the presidency. Counselor Mohamed Dakroury, Secretary of Ethics and Legal Affairs at the ruling National Democratic Party, and former legal advisor to the presidency, described ElBaradei’s statement as vague, inapprehensible and said that it does not deserve a comment.
He pointed out that ElBaradei’s request on the need for a new constitution or amendments to Article 76 of the Constitution is difficult to achieve in the coming period, because the same article has already been amended twice. Dakroury added that it was characteristic of constitutions to enjoy stability and consistency, so they should not be amended or changed at frequent intervals or just because someone called for that.
Dakroury explained that we must bear in mind that we are talking about the highest office in the state when we discuss the presidential elections and the conditions for nomination. Therefore, the common public should not be allowed to run for the elections. He added that if we set conditions to run for the mayor post, it is more worthy to set tougher and stricter conditions to run for the presidency. He added that for ElBaradei to be able to run for the presidency, he must fulfill the conditions stipulated in Article 76 of the Constitution. These conditions necessitate that he should have at least one-year membership at the higher council of a certain party before starting the nomination, and the party he belongs to should also be represented in the parliament. In addition, he should get the support of 250 members of the parliamentary and local councils. Dakroury thinks that it would be difficult for Dr. ElBaradei to achieve all that.
Dakroury also believes that the words of Mohamed ElBaradei are common and it is possible that he tries to occupy the public opinion and maintain media focus, after he left his post at the (IAEA).