By Ahmed Aboul Enein and Moustafa Ayad
Mohamed ElBaradei has not denied he would take up the position of prime minister his spokesperson said.
Although independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm and the Saudi Arabian newspaper Sharq both reported that the Nobel prize laureate denied being offered the premiership and had said that he would refuse the position if offered, ElBaradei’s spokesperson, Rania Azab, said she did not know whether or not he was offered any positions and denied the report.
“We have no information about this topic,” she told the Daily News Egypt.
Many revolutionary groups and activists have called on President Mohamed Morsi to appoint ElBaradei as prime minister.
Morsi had promised to appoint an independent figure outside of his organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party.
This, alongside other promises like a national unity coalition cabinet and a Coptic Christian and a woman in vice presidential roles was what prompted several of Morsi’s uneasy allies from secular and revolutionary groups to lend him support.
The resulting coalition, which calls itself the Front for the Continuation of the Revolution, has called on Morsi to appoint ElBaradei as prime minister.
However, ElBaradei has repeatedly on more than one occasion denied he would accept any positions within the state before the writing of a new constitution.
The former International Atomic Energy Agency chief had announced he would run for president in the wake of former President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
He pulled out of the race last January, however, citing his opposition to running for a position that has no job description due to the lack of a constitution.
Instead, he has announced that he is looking to play an unofficial role through uniting youth and revolutionary groups and preparing them for elections and entering the political scene.
ElBaradei announced last March his formation of the Dostour (constitution) Party that aims to be a catch-all umbrella party for revolutionary groups.
Sources close to ElBaradei have denied that he was offered the position, however, and some expressed that it was unlikely he would accept it if offered.
“I talked to him about four days ago and he said nothing about being offered a cabinet post,” Abdel Rahman Yousef, the former coordinator of ElBaradei’s presidential campaign, told Daily News Egypt on Sunday.
He added that ElBaradei was unlikely to accept the position of prime minister unless it came with actual power as he would not agree to be a figurehead.
“The biggest issue would be what powers the prime minister would have, since the president himself does not have his full authority,” Yousef said in reference to the supplementary constitutional decree limiting the president’s power that was announced by SCAF mere days before Morsi won.
This is not the first time ElBaradei’s presence has been sought out by power. His pulling out of the race prompted many to ask him to reverse his decision.
After the resignation of Essam Sharaf and his cabinet in the wake of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes, many called on him to assume the premiership.
He was reportedly offered a cabinet position when Sharaf first took over as well.
During the presidential runoff between Morsi and former Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, both candidates spoke positively of him and made statements saying he would have a role in their governments.
“ElBaradei’s participation is often perceived as a way of legitimising the political process given his international clout and his role in galvanising opposition to Mubarak ahead of the January 25 revolution.
So from Essam Sharaf’s [cabinet] until now, ElBaradei has been pursued largely to anoint the standing cabinets more so than to utilise his statesmanship,” says Adel Iskandar, professor at the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.
Iskandar added that ElBaradei’s participation also serves to “ensure the revolutionary youth camp which still sees him in an inspirational light does not take an oppositional stance vis-a-vis the government.”
His influence and supporters are different from the “cult of personality” former presidential candidate and Salafist preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail or the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat El-Shater enjoy.
“His following differs greatly from those of Abu Ismail land Shater which are in some instances, deeply ideological and institutional respectively.
ElBaradei’s following began as one of youth dissidents primarily tech-savvy or at least able to access the internet and spread across the political lines including both liberal and Islamist as he attempted to create a wide platform for his message and inclusive rhetoric,” said Iskandar.
Iskandar shares the opinion many activists have of ElBaradei, namely that he is not a revolutionary leader but rather “the revolution’s wise man.”
It was the change in the political scene that eventually got ElBaradei off the fence, “At a certain point, possibly until the middle of 2011 when the political scene became too complicated, ElBaradei’s status began to dissipate as his practical chances for contention in the presidential elections appeared to dwindle,” Iskandar said.
Even though the direction he chose disappointed his supporters, “Nevertheless, he has maintained a very strong respectable view among a large and growing proportion of Egyptians although many believe he is not a favourable choice for president,” Iskandar added.
“He has come to occupy the role of the ‘conscience of the revolution’ rather than a political figure.”