CAIRO: Former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei unequivocally stated that he does not want to become president of Egypt in an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine published Tuesday.
“I don t want to be president of Egypt, he said. “I have a lot of plans other than being president of Egypt . However . a lot of people are saying that they want me to be engaged in domestic politics – they want me to run for president of Egypt.
ElBaradei added, “What I ve said is that I would not even consider running for president unless there is the proper framework for a free and fair election – and that is still the major question mark in Egypt. I don t believe the conditions are in place for free and fair elections.
ElBaradei had previously spoken on the need for a new constitution for Egypt, and not just regarding the current prerequisites for presidential candidates as laid out by the constitutional amendments of 2007.
“The constitution is written in a way that I cannot run unless I join an existing party, which, to me, is not how a democratic system works, he said. “I would like to be, at this time, an agent to push Egypt towards a more democratic and transparent regime, with all of its implications for the rest of the Arab world.
Article 76 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that a candidate must have been on the governing council of his political party for at least one year prior to elections, and that the party must have been in existence for at least five years.
Additionally, any presidential hopeful must secure a total of 250 endorsements from both legislative houses – the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council – and local councils to become an official candidate. Members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) however, hold a majority in both houses.
When ElBaradei first spoke of his potential candidacy, he faced a maelstrom of criticism in the local state-run press, something he said backfired in the end.
“I think the immediate reaction was a vicious attack by the government newspapers. Then I think they realized they made a terrible mistake because it backfired in their face. All of a sudden I became a national hero, sitting here in Vienna. People were just disgusted by how they reacted, he said.
The former IAEA chief was also asked his opinions about the relationship with Hamas, the Egyptian position vis-a-vis Gaza and the building of an underground wall on the border with the Strip.
“You have to distinguish between national security and humanitarian assistance, he said. “But if this [border area] has been used for smuggling drugs, weapons or extremists, then Egypt has the right to make sure it protects its security. But what Egypt can also do is use the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow Gaza to have humanitarian assistance.
ElBaradei added, “For example, one idea I have is to create a free zone in the Egyptian part of Rafah. I don t see why we can t have a free zone there where people from Gaza go and buy their own basic needs. So there is a difference between protecting national security, which no one questions, and providing humanitarian assistance.