Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said he plans to contest the first presidential elections to be held after mass demonstrations ended former President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.
ElBaradei, 68, emerged as the surprise face of an Egyptian opposition that forced Mubarak from office last month after 18 days of mass demonstrations, ending three decades of rule. The protests were inspired by a mass uprising in Tunisia that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In the early part of the interview with Egypt’s ONTV, the Nobel Prize winner said he wanted to run in the next election, though he refused to repeat the statement and then said he would only do so if the system was fair. As the show came to an end and after being pressed by the interviewer, he said: “I, Mohamed ElBaradei, intend to officially declare my candidacy for presidency through ONTV.”
ElBaradei also said he would vote “no” in a March 19 referendum on constitutional changes because the measures had been rushed and some of them contained flaws. He said that if elected he would seek to restore close ties with Iran and that the relationship between Israel and Egypt was one of “master-servant.”
During Egypt’s turmoil, a coalition of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, coalesced around ElBaradei, who last night said that if elected he would seek “social justice” through socialism and not capitalism.
ElBaradei, the former chief of the United Nations atomic agency, said he backed equality, whether between men and women or Muslims and Copts.
The toppling of Ben Ali and Mubarak has fueled protests across the Arab world including in Libya, where rebel forces are battling leader Muammar Qaddafi. Oil prices have risen to the highest in 2 1/2 years on concern that the turmoil in the region will disrupt the flow of crude.
Mubarak ceded authority to an army council, which suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament, saying it would rule for six months or until elections are held. No date for a vote has been set.
“I won’t run, unless there’s a democratic system and real representation by people,” said ElBaradei, who was a critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “A corrupt constitution results in a corrupt system.”
Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik resigned earlier this month, succumbing to demands by protesters who are insisting that Cabinet members named by Mubarak leave office.
Opposition groups are also calling for the release of political prisoners, the trial of those responsible for attacks during the unrest, increased democracy and a crackdown on corruption.
Some 365 people were killed and 5,500 injured during the uprising, state TV reported on Feb. 17, citing the Health Ministry.