Egypt’s political sphere has been rocked with question marks, hope and enthusiasm since El Baradei, the former head of the UN’s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nobel Prize winner, announced that he will run in the 2011’s presidential elections. It’s not another Egyptian obsession like those of Turkish soap operas and Egyptian-Algerian struggles that took over with our street talk for good, but it’s a matter of hope and optimism for a new Egyptian democratic regime. In just a matter of a few weeks, ElBaradei was able to strike a chord of many Egyptians for their deep-rooted love for their country giving them high hopes for a better future. Headlines were highlighted with his name, Facebook profile pictures were posted displaying his posters and hundreds of news agencies all over the globe tried to win hit interviews with him.
On Friday, Feb. 19, a flock of Egyptian young activists were out in full force with their flags, posters raised high and roars ruptured in high pitch across the pavement at the arrival terminal of Cairo International Airport in an amazing show of support for receiving the candidate; who is known for his broad appeal as a well-established and respected persona with a flourishing career far from the bounds of corrupt regime politics.
The state-sponsored press has used the fact that ElBaradie is ‘unusual by Egyptian political standards’ against him which meant that he’s a foreigner to regime politics, but many think it’s a quality that also works in his favor. ElBaradei served in Vienna as chief of the international nuclear watchdog for 12 years, during which time he gained international recognition for challenging the Bush Administration’s claims that Iraq had nuclear weapons ahead of the U.S.’s 2003 invasion. In 2005, He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to curb nuclear proliferation. But the Egyptian constitution, as it stands, makes it nearly impossible for him to run. Article 76 requires that a candidate be the head of an officially sanctioned political party for at least a year before entering the race. He said himself that he would run only if the election promised to be free and fair and would be supervised by the judiciary and the international community. An equally daunting problem may be a legacy of poor political participation. The government reported 23% voter turnout in the last presidential race, but analysts say that statistic is likely to be inflated. Many Egyptians are apathetic about participating in elections because they don’t believe they can effect change in a corrupt system. “I’m supporting ElBaradei, but I won’t give my voice. Why would I leave my daily errands and go vote for ElBaradie when I’m sure that my voice will be moved to trash?” Ahmed Atallah, 26 said. “yes I support ElBaradie and I’ll go give my voice, but I’m not sure he will win anyways, even if the whole 80 million Egyptians supported him” Amina Said, 30 told us. “he has got an immense political weight globally, but the problem is that Egyptians don’t know who to choose a military man or an economic pioneer who will elevate people to a better economic level. One more thing, one of the main factors of ElBaradei’s program is to cancel the Emergency Law, but the question is would he be able to make people who couldn’t reach food and drink able to find any? People should know that democracy isn’t just the factor that will make people live in peace” Ahmed Hossam, 30. “Wether to choose ElBaradei or someone else, people should start with themselves first to pressure the government to restore 76, 77 amendments to give the right to ElBaradei or any other candidate to take office” Ali Abdel Hamid, 28.
It’s very obvious that Egyptian youth are approaching awareness for the 1st time in decades towards the political scene in Egypt and it’s shown on their Facebook walls and university activities. “It’s not about change, just for the sake of it, but it’s about a healthy type of change” Rania Salem, 24 said. “Some people think that ElBaradei is a part of an American conspiracy theory the thing that makes me laugh hysterically, seriously who are they tricking? He’s 100% Egyptian people!” Ahmed El Kashef, 28 said. ‘Mohamed ElBaradei 2011’ is the most talked about Facebook group that is joined by 11, 180 members from young Egyptians; all supporting ElBaradei. The group is founded by Ahmed Abo Hussien an AUC student who believes in ElBaradei “this group is founded by independent Egyptians who believe in their country and in the capabilities of ElBaradei” Abo Hussien said. ‘Mohamed ElBaradei..A New Era’, “ElBaradei vs. Gamal, who is the best person for this job?’ ‘Moh’d ElBaradei and Rashid M. Rashid on one presidential ticket’ are also Facebook groups with hundreds of members.
A 2005 constitutional amendment that established multi-candidate presidential elections also came with rules designed to ensure that no independent candidates could easily enter the race. Candidates must serve as head of a licensed political party for one year, an option ElBaradei has said that he does not favor. To run as an independent he would have to secure the backing of 250 representatives across both houses of parliament and municipal councils, all of which are dominated by Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party. ElBaradei acknowledges that securing his conditions for candidacy will be nearly impossible. Instead, he seems to be embracing his role as an outside agitator, using his international stature to pressure the Government towards reform.
Talk shows were hot and bothered by ElBaradei effect and they raced on having one on one boiling talks with him. Al Ashera Masaan’s Mona El-Shazly told him on their interview that most Egyptian citizens “benefit from the stability” of the Mubarak regime, ElBaradei responded, “Let’s not fool ourselves. If a person can’t find food, can’t find medical treatment and can’t find education, there’s no stability.” However, ElBaradei has insisted that he will only run if an unlikely set of conditions are met. Among his demands are written guarantees that the elections will be free and fair, supervision of the vote by international monitors, and a constitutional amendment to remove obstacles to an independent candidacy. “For someone like me, to be unable to run for president, this is a disaster,” he said to El-Shazly. “How can a constitution bar 99 per cent of the people from running?”. ElBaradei also appeared with the controversial Amr Adib on Al Kahera El Youm, the episode that appeared as a link on a number of Facebook statuses and became a number one YouTube hit. Adib asked him “I’m asking you in a direct way do you want to nominate yourself for ruling Egypt?” ElBaradei responded by saying “this question is early but my goal is to make Egypt transfer to a country where there is health and education are available also put a system to take care of those. There should be a democratic regime in which the people themselves choose the candidate that will rule them and people should see that there are associations with checkout systems”. “I want to change the country and if its change depends on the tool of presidency in different conditions, I don’t think I would disappoint Egyptians” he added.
Egypt’s independent media has also wholeheartedly embraced the ElBaradei phenomenon. Saad El Din Ibrahim, a famed Egyptian opposition figure who has been living aboard for the last three years fearing prosecution if he returns to Egypt, wrote in Egypt’s favorite daily independent newspaper AlMasry AlYoum, that ElBaradei’s announcement of readiness to run for president if the constitution is amended, has “changed the Egyptian political scene qualitatively and psychologically in an unprecedented way since 1952” and it’s a “social movement” under the political surface in Egypt. Recalling the Cairo Airport’s welcome to ElBaradei. Mahmoud Saad, the esteemed media figure cautious when broaching the ElBaradei phenomenon as he wrote in the daily opposition newspaper al-Dostor that “ElBaradei’s story is ‘a big lie’ and ‘a show’ played by the opposition and directed by the government for its own interest”. He wrapped up his article by crippling some hope saying “Inside the lie, a big and great truth exists. People have to realize that hope exists; Egypt has many capable men, we only need to believe in change.” Analyst Mahmoud Khalil described in AlMasry AlYoum, how the Egyptian government was able over the years to spread pessimism in the political culture “Over the years, the authority has spread despair and the idea that there is no solution for any problem at any level; education, health services, population increase, traffic, unemployment, corruption..Etc. It has transformed most Egyptians into an army of despair. The power of ElBaradei is in his ideas, which sell hope, a commodity that disappeared from the Egyptian market. Hope means to believe in ourselves and in our ability to bring change.” writes Khalil.
ElBaradei also earned the government’s praise in the past few years, as the head of the UN nuclear agency for 12 years and a winner of the Noble Peace Prize (2005) for his efforts to defuse tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. In 2006, Mubarak awarded him the Nile Collar, the country’s highest civilian merit. And during a press conference with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in Berlin, Mubarak welcomed ElBaradei’s entry into local politics provided he abides by the rules of the constitution.
“Crawling Away from Armageddon” is a memoir in the pipeline for ElBaradei. It will be about his years as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, including the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Co., announced that the memoir will be published in 2011.Metropolitan says ElBaradei will write about the U.S. war against Iraq and will include his observations of Bush administration officials including Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. ElBaradei won the Nobel in 2005. He headed the United Nations agency for 12 years before stepping down last year. He infuriated Washington by challenging claims that Saddam Hussein had a secret nuclear program. He also grappled with Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.
Mr ElBaradei was part of the team that negotiated the peace settlement with Israel at Camp David in 1978 and whether he runs for president or not, he has positioned himself as a complication to the long-rumored plans for a Mubarak succession in addition to spreading hope and enthusiasm inside the Egyptian’s political atmosphere.