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EGYPT: Mubarak aims to cool off enthusiasm for Mohamed ElBaradei

March 6, 2010 |  8:28 am

St_mubarak_gi_jpg_-1_-1Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's first public reaction to the political reaction that surrounded Mohamed ElBaradei's return to Egypt seems to have been a very spontaneous attempt to remind everyone that dramatic political changes in the country are likely to take place in the near future.

ElBaradei, who has been called on by many activists to run for the 2011 presidential election, made an unprecedented political move when he said that he would run if the constitution is amended to provide a fair chance for anyone willing to throw his hat into the ring.

He stressed that efforts to reform the constitution would be his main target regardless of his chances of winning the election. Establishing the New Front for Change alongside a number of opposition politicians and intellectuals was the fruit of a week that was dubbed "ElBaradei's week" in the media.

Many Egyptians had their hopes raised that ElBaradei could be someone who could bring about democratic change. Some started wondering how the ruling regime would react to the man's growing popularity.

However, the first official response from Mubarak came in a very pragmatic, realistic and quiet manner.

When asked at a news conference after his talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday in Berlin about ElBaradei, Mubarak simply said the ex-lawmaker has the right to take part in the elections independently or as leader of any political party as long as he meets the constitutional requirements.

The former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is not eligible to compete in the election, as the constitution states that he should be a leading member of a political party or needs to secure the approval of 250 parliamentary and local council members to run as an independent candidate.

Although millions of Egyptians have shown optimism for the 67-year-old's desire to amend the constitution, Mubarak's words underscored the fact that, for now, ElBaradei and everyone else have to live with it.

ElBaradei previously said Egyptians themselves would need to force those constitutional alterations, but the last few decades have not given any sign that masses can pressure the ruling regime into changing anything.

The constitutional conditions crippling presidential candidates were only added in 2007. To many critics, they appear tailor-made to ensure that no one will have the chance to pose a threat to the ruling National Democratic Party's candidate, whether it's president Mubarak or his son Gamal or anyone else.

So what can Egyptians or ElBaradei do to get about those constitutional changes specifically created to maintain the status quo?

ElBaradei's presence has motivated many Egyptians. He has a clear goal and has the right to believe in people's ability to bring changes. His presence has already captured the imagination of those in the region.

"The very presence of Dr. ElBaradei as a contender, legally or illegally, can draw the attention of the international, and especially the Western, public opinion to the heavy suppression of the opposition, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood and others," Ahmad Bakhshayesh, a Tehran political scientist, told Babylon & Beyond.

However, what Mubarak said in a few words seems to be the harsh reality that can hinder any democratic development in the country.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: President Hosni Mubarak. Credit: Getty Images

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