EGYPT: Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei calls for election boycott
Speaking to a crowd of nearly 200 people at a Ramadan iftar meal held by some members of the National Front for Change on Monday, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog reaffirmed his belief that participating in the elections would give President Hosni Mubarak's regime an undeserved legitimacy.
"If the whole people boycott the elections totally, it will be in my view the end of the regime," the Nobel Peace prize laureate told attending reporters.
Since launching his Front for Change right upon his return to Egypt after stepping down from his United Nations post last February, ElBaradei and his allies have been working on collecting signatures to their proposed reform petition.
Among its seven main demands, the petition asks for a guarantee of free and fair presidential elections with judicial supervision in 2011, amending the constitution to offer less crippling requirements for independent candidates and ending the emergency rule imposed since Mubarak became head of state in 1981.
Despite a relatively slow and unpromising start, members of the Front aided by Egypt's biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has managed to secure around 800,000 signatures so far.
"The regime has not responded to our demands, and anyone who participates in the vote either as a candidate or as a voter goes against the national will," ElBaradei added.
ElBaradei, who said that the Mubarak regime has failed to govern Egypt, said that the elections will be rigged anyway.
"When I look at the temple [the regime] built, I see a decaying temple, nearly collapsing. It will fall sooner rather than later," the 68-year-old said. "I will never enter this temple. What we call for is to bring down this temple in a peaceful civilized manner."
ElBaradei has similarly threatened to turn to civil disobedience in case the Mubarak regime does not yield to "people's demands".
"We don't want to resort to that [civil disobedience] but we will not refrain from resorting to it if the regime doesn’t respond to our demands," ElBaradei concluded.
Despite showing an earlier will to take part in Egypt's presidential elections, ElBaradei is still firm on not nominating himself before achieving constitutional reforms.
According to article 76 of the constitution, independent candidates like ElBaradei need to secure 250 signatures from members of parliament and local councils. The absolute majority of the ruling National Democratic Party in both parliament and councils makes such a requirement impossible.
Calls for a boycott will largely depend on what the Muslim Brotherhood, will decide, as the politically-banned movement, whose members run in parliamentary elections as independent candidates and form fifth of Egypt's lower parliament's "People's Assembly" seats, is yet to announce its position from the ballot.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: ElBaradei holding tens of signed reform petitions. Credit: Associated Press