Former nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei, tipped as a possible opposition Egyptian presidential contender and said a decision on entering the 2011 race would be contingent on guarantees of a fair election.
ElBaradei also laid out a series of other tough conditions for mounting a campaign that Cairo has long shown no signs of addressing, including a demand for a new constitution that would better respect human rights and put checks on power.
Some voices in Egypt’s opposition, hoping to block President Hosni Mubarak from passing on power to his politician son, have urged ElBaradei to run, hoping to capitalise on his reputation at the helm of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“I have followed with great concern the opinions and voices that call me to nominate myself in the coming Egyptian presidential elections,” ElBaradei said in a statement.
“I would like to explain that my position on this issue will be decided in light of certain basic issues.”
He said he wanted judicial supervision of the vote, UN monitoring and equal coverage for all candidates by state media.
“This will send a clear message to the world that there is true reform and change in Egypt,” he said, adding he wanted a national consensus in favour of his candidacy before deciding.
Under Egypt’s election rules, ElBaradei would realistically have to hold a leadership post for at least a year in a political party represented in parliament to be eligible to run.
Egyptian media have speculated that opposition parties might court ElBaradei, hoping he could join the leadership of their parties in time to ensure eligibility.
ElBaradei, 67, stepped down at the end of November as head of the Vienna-based IAEA after 12 years. He and the IAEA jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
ElBaradei last month declined to rule out a presidential run, telling CNN that one should “never say never” but saying he wanted guarantees a vote would be conducted properly.
Mubarak’s son Gamal, a top official in the ruling National Democratic Party, is seen by analysts as most likely to lead US ally Egypt after his now 81-year-old father leaves office, although father and son have denied such plans.
Mubarak, who has given no sign he plans to step down when his term ends in 2011, would be 89 at the end of another term. Opposition politician Ayman Nour, the main challenger to Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential vote in 2005, said he was disappointed with ElBaradei’s statement on the race because it demanded unrealistic pre-vote reforms.
“ElBaradei’s statement is less than we expected, because it raises questions more than it gives answers, especially that he links his participation to the presence of near-impossible conditions,” Nour told the independent al-Masry al-Youm daily.