Cairo (AFP) Oct 6, 2009
Whether President Hosni Mubarak runs for re-election in 2011 or gives way to his son Gamal, an opposition party sees UN nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei as a strong contender for Egypt's top job.
A prominent candidate would give an unexpected boost to the opposition in its rivalry with Mubarak's National Democratic Party, a pillar of the Egyptian political system.
But several hurdles remain, not least of which is ElBaradei's reluctance to run.
To qualify for the race, Egyptian law states that a party candidate must have led or been a senior figure of a party for at least a year, and that the party itself must have been founded at least five years before the election.
As an independent, one must secure the backing of 250 elected members of parliament, including at least 65 from the lower house, 25 from the upper house and 10 from municipal councils -- all of which are dominated by the ruling NDP.
Members of the liberal Wafd opposition party's youth wing have nominated ElBaradei to head the party so that he can become a candidate.
"We have formed a popular committee to support ElBaradei and we will continue to mobilise to get him elected to the leadership of the party," said Mohammed Salah al-Sheikh, the support committee's coordinator.
The International Atomic Energy Agency head earned worldwide recognition by opposing US warnings -- which later proved false -- over an Iraqi nuclear programme that were used as grounds for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The IAEA director general, who is to step down from his post in November, is also a key player in the Iranian nuclear file and he was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in 2005.
"We think we can mobilise Egyptians around ElBaradei, he is accepted by Islamists, by the left and by liberals," Sheikh told AFP.
"We want him to be elected for just one term with the only goal of adopting a new constitution which would guarantee the separation of powers and establish a rule of law," said the 39-year-old.
"We want to turn the page on despotism and corruption."
But party chief Mahmud Abaza warned it was too early for the youth wing's proposal. "The party must first decide whether it will participate or boycott the elections," he told AFP.
Another supporter of ElBaradei is the Kefaya movement, a political grouping which electrified Egypt's political scene in 2005 with a series of unprecedented anti-regime demonstrations.
Contacted by AFP, ElBaradei's office in Vienna said he did not wish to comment. But according to the Egyptian press, ElBaradei, 67, has recommended that his supporters "find a younger candidate."
While the press regularly portrays the president's 44-year-old-son Gamal as the "heir" to power, both father and son have been vague about their political intentions.
In 2011, Hosni Mubarak would have completed his fifth six-year term. Gamal regularly evades the question of running for the presidency, saying only that it is "hypothetical."
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US on defensive as Obama shuns Dalai Lama
Washington (AFP) Oct 5, 2009
The Dalai Lama on Monday started his first Washington visit in nearly two decades to lack a presidential meeting, as Barack Obama's administration insisted it still respected the Tibetan leader. Fellow Tibetan exiles welcomed the globetrotting 74-year-old monk as he arrived at his Washington hotel, starting a week in the US capital to feature spiritual teachings and talks with congressional ... read more
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