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EGYPT: ElBaradei says he'll only run for president if vote is free, fair

December 6, 2009 |  8:11 am

ElbaradeiNobel Prize winner and outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei has responded for the first time to calls urging him to run in Egypt's 2011 presidential elections, saying he'd only enter the race if a free and fair vote could be guaranteed. 

"I've been closely following calls for me to run in the next presidential elections. Though I deeply appreciate people's trust in my abilities, I'd like to make it clear that my final position will be determined upon a number of fundamental issues," ElBaradei said. "Elections must be under the full supervision of the judiciary and in the presence of international observers from the United Nations to ensure transparency."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has yet to say whether he will run in the upcoming elections, raising concern that the 81-year-old leader is paving the way for his son, Gamal, to be the ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP) future nominee.

Mubarak has been in power since 1981, having been re-elected to a fifth term in the 2005 elections, which were marred by accusations of fraud and a lack of transparency. Twenty-eight years of living under emergency rule and economic setbacks, with more than 40% of Egypt's 80 million living on less than $2 a day,  have made many fear the prospect of a Mubarak dynasty.

In an attempt to prepare a strong opposition to Mubarak's apparent plans, leaders of the Free Constitutional party approached ElBaradei, who ended his 12-year reign as general director of the IAEA last month, to nominate him as their presidential candidate. The 67-year-old Egyptian had remained tight-lipped over the matter until he issued a statement late last week. 

ElBaradei also has asked for independent candidates to be allowed a run in the elections. The Egyptian constitution, however, requires that a presidential candidate be head of a political party or receive state permission after collecting approval from at least 300 municipal councils.

For an independent candidate, that is virtually impossible. ElBaradei's statement came after he was subjected to vigorous media criticism by state-owned newspapers, criticism that continued after he'd issued his statement.

"ElBaradei has spent the last 40 years outside Egypt. Such a long time may have made him ask for certain changes to constitutional amendments that were called for and approved by the people themselves," wrote the chief editor of the Republic newspaper on Friday.

But many Egyptians believe ElBaradei's career and life abroad may help to make him immune to the corruption of the country's politics.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Mohamed ElBaradei. Credit: Reuters

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