CAIRO: Former IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei announced on TV late Wednesday his intention to run for president, but stressed that he would refrain unless all Egyptians are properly represented in the government.
“I will not be (merely) a decoration (in the regime),” he told “Akher Kalam” program on ONTV channel Wednesday night in his first live interview since president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11.
In the case of lack of true representation of all people, he said he would focus his energy on fighting for democracy.
ElBaradei presented his views on the constitutional amendments and his plans as a possible president. He responded for the first time to smear campaigns orchestrated against him by the media arm of the ousted regime.
ElBaradei said that he would vote against the proposed amendments on the constitution on March 19, describing them as “shallow.”
He heavily criticized the amendments proposed on article 75 of the constitution which stipulate that presidential nominee and their parents must be Egyptian citizens, without having ever held foreign citizenship. Potential nominees cannot be married to a non-Egyptian as well.
ElBaradei said he was shocked to hear the “racist” phrase, “the purity of the Egyptian nationality,” which reminded him of Hitler discourse.
He called on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to postpone the referendum on the constitutional amendments until a new constitution is created.
“A large number of constitutional experts said that a corrupt regime results from a corrupt constitution,” said the former head of the international nuclear watchdog.
The Nobel peace prize laureate also called on the SCAF to form a presidential council and a five-member constituent assembly representing the people to establish a new constitution.
“Establishing the constitution isn’t just a legal matter; it’s a popular and political one,” ElBaradei said. “The legal experts’ mission is the legal drafting of the articles of the constitution. “
“We are moving 180 degrees from a repressive regime to a democratic one,” he added.
In response to year-long smear campaigns that claimed ElBaradei held other nationalities, he asserted that he and his wife were Egyptian and never held any other nationality. His son-in-law converted to Islam before he married his daughter at the Egyptian embassy in Vienna, he added.
ElBaradei denied opposing article 2 of the constitution, which stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state and that Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation.
“This reflects Egypt’s history and civilization,” he said.
He explained that he supports the principles of the Islamic Sharia which advocate human values including justice and equality between all Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians.
Regarding accusations that he was responsible for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in his capacity as IAEA chief, ElBaradei said that on the contrary, he was the reason that the US didn’t receive a resolution from the Security Council supporting its invasion of Iraq.
He added that the US refused his nomination as IAEA chief for another term for that reason in addition to his refusal of the American policies regarding Iran.
If he was elected president, ElBaradei said he would restore strained Egyptian-Iranian relations.
Smear campaigns that were initially launched against him by the former regime continue “until this day,” he added.
ElBaradei said he supported replacing the current presidential system in Egypt with a parliamentary one, in order to curb the powers the constitution grants the president that make him the sole ruler over the people.
“Even if (the people choose) a presidential system, it will be a mix between presidential and parliamentary systems,” he added.
He stressed the importance of allowing Egyptian abroad to vote saying that we have the technology to do so, but we need to have the will.
In response to a question about his reasons for nominating himself, he said his first press conference as president would be from slums, where he would apologize to the 40 percent of Egyptians who live under or around the poverty line.
He added that he would work to help the people in the slums lead a decent life.
ElBaradei said that he wasn’t seeking power or authority; he only wants to serve the people.
“If the Egyptian people are convinced with me, I will be happy. If they choose somebody else, I will also be happy,” he added..
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa announced last week that he will run in the presidential race.
ElBaradei said that Moussa was his friend and colleague of 50 years, although they have different political views. He welcomed having a debate with Moussa at any time.
An online poll on the website of Al-Ahram newspaper last week showed Moussa with a big lead over ElBaradei.
However, political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told Daily News Egypt that ElBaradei would make the most powerful presidential candidate on the current political scene.
“[ElBaradei] has a strong legal back round and the country currently needs his democratic and liberal direction,” Abdel Fattah said, “Egypt can also benefit from his weight in the international community and his integrity.”
The analysts said that Moussa is an integral part of the former corrupt regime.
“Moussa never spoke up against the regime’s systematic violations of human rights or protected general freedoms or even proposed a change in the constitutional or political system before the revolution,” Abdel Fattah said.
Moussa offered no tangible developments during his time as Egypt’s foreign minister and later as the Arab League Secretary General, he added.
“Moussa loves the camera and the media.” Abdel Fattah said. “He loves giving void speeches to the public without achieving anything tangible on the ground.’
Moussa defended his achievements as foreign minister and Arab League Secretary General during a symposium at the Cultural Wheel on Tuesday saying that his loyalty was to serving Egypt not government officials.
Abdel Fattah added that there was a huge generation gap between Moussa, 74, and the youths who lead the revolution which would make it “impossible” to relate to them or their demands.
Amr El-Chobaki, senior researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told DNE, “(The Presidential hopefuls) need to announce clearly their political programs before we can decide who is the best candidate.”