Here is a vote for the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei to become president of Egypt. I know I don’t have a vote. And I hear the words of Egyptian blogger and activist Hossam el-Hamalawy when he says, “We don't expect any help from America—just to leave us alone.”
But with the anti-government protests in Egypt building into something that might become a real revolution—plus ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize laureate, returning to his home country today to participate in the biggest action yet and saying, yes, he is ready to assume power in a transitional government if he is called to do so—well, it’s hard not to at least voice support. This would be good.
Some people have voiced worry that if Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, as the protesters are demanding, it could result in the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group and the world’s oldest Islamist political organization. The Brotherhood, which has been waning in influence lately, calls for a return of the caliphate or a government-based on religious law. This is bad.
ElBaradei has always been a powerful critic of violence and violent posturing in politics. He was one of the strongest voices against America’s launch of the stupid, arrogant, and, I think, criminal war against Iraq in 2003—knowing, and pointing out, that the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s efforts to build nuclear weapons had been fabricated. And, being one of the loudest voices advocating democracy, he has important things to offer the long-troubled region.
As he told Foreign Policy magazine last February, “I would like to be, at this time, an agent to push Egypt toward a more democratic and transparent regime, with all of its implications for the rest of the Arab world. If I am able to do that, I will be very happy because we need to achieve democracy in the Arab world as fast as we can. Democracy meaning empowering people, democracy meaning a proper economic and social development, tolerance—it means building up modern societies.”
More power to him.
Image: ASSOCIATED PRESSAP