CAIRO: The comments made by outgoing IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradie regarding his willingness to run in the 2011 presidential elections has split opinion amongst opposition groups.
ElBaradie, who is due to step down from his post at the atomic agency this month, told CNN in a televised interview on Thursday that he would consider running in 2011 if he had “written guarantees that it would be a “free and fair election.
These remarks have elicited a wide range of responses from opposition parties in Egypt, with some welcoming his possible candidacy – to the point of inviting him to join their ranks – and others opposed completely to him running.
More relevant to ElBaradie if he wants to be a contender is Article 76 of the Egyptian constitution, which was amended in 2007 and regulates the eligibility of presidential candidates.
The article stipulates that a candidate must have been a member of the governing council of his party for at least one year prior to the election, and that the party should be at least five years old.
Additionally, any presidential hopeful must secure a total of 250 signatures from both legislative houses and local councils to become an official candidate. Members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), however, dominate both councils.
It is Article 76 that is ElBaradie’s biggest impediment, argue opposition members.
“The 250 endorsements required by Article 76 means an independent cannot run unless there is an agreement from the NDP, so there is a practical impossibility unless the constitution is changed, said Saad Aboud of the Karama Party. “If the NDP do agree, then he would merely be a candidate for décor and ElBaradie is bigger than this.
Head of the Arab Socialist Party Waheed Al-Aqsari said, “For ElBaradie to be nominated through Article 76 is impossible. For an independent candidate to receive 250 signatures is impossible due to the majority of NDP members in both houses.
Members of the opposition are concerned that President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal, is being groomed to become Egypt’s next president. Head of Al-Wasat Al-Gadid party, which is still under establishment, Abu El-Ela Mady believes that ElBaradie’s mooted candidacy would delay these succession plans.
“I think it delays the plans of inheritance, because you now have a name like ElBaradie who has a great record against someone who has little history. . Gamal’s advantage was that he would be the first civilian president, now there is another civilian candidate.
“His declaration in this manner has pressured the regime to push democratic and social reform, Mady added. “The situation in Egypt is not good and this has been recognized by a worldwide personality like ElBaradie.
The prospect of ElBaradie as president, however, has split opinion amongst the opposition with some in support and others completely against the notion.
Al-Aqsari said, “With all due respect to him, we don’t accept his candidacy because he is an academic and lived abroad for a long time, so he is far removed from the pain and suffering of the Egyptian people.
“For him to be away from Egypt for so long means to me that he is not a viable candidate, and the same applies to Ahmed Zuweil, he added, referring the Egyptian-American Nobel Laureate. “This is not support for the NDP either; we want a candidate from the Egyptian people.
Mady said his party had not yet decided whether or not to support ElBaradie’s candidacy.
Aboud though did welcome it, saying, “We want political openness and as many candidates as possible and before that we need fair and transparent elections so people can choose their president. Without amending Article 76, then we will not have it. If ElBaradie decides to run, we welcome him.