Egypt’s Nobel peace-prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei has described his country as being “at the bottom of the international community” and has publicly called on President Hosni Mubarak to ease curbs on election candidates.
Nearly six decades after the fall of the monarchy, Egypt is rife with corruption and economic mismanagement, and lags smaller countries in innovation and technology, ElBaradei said in a live television interview on privately owned Dream TV in Cairo on Sunday night. He urged Mubarak, in power since 1981, to lift “unreasonable” restrictions on candidates for the presidency before next year’s election.
ElBaradei returned to Egypt on February 19, after leaving his post as head of the United Nations nuclear agency last year.
A group on the social networking Web site Facebook calling on him to stand has nearly 100,000 members.
Analysts and opposition groups including the Muslim Brotherhood claim the president is grooming his son Gamal to succeed him, a claim that both father and son deny.
Rules introduced in 2006 require presidential candidates to be members of established parties or get authorized by parliament and local councils, which are dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party. The government does not recognize the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s biggest opposition group, as a political party and other groups have few followers.
ElBaradei, 67, has said he may run for president if the restrictions are eased, even if that involves challenging Mubarak, Egypt’s longest-serving ruler since Mohamed Ali Pasha in the 19th century.
Investors would be comfortable with a Gamal Mubarak presidency because he favors a reduced role for the state in the economy, say analysts and economists including John Sfakianakis, chief Middle East and North Africa economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Riyadh.
Mubarak’s supporters say he’s attracted billions of dollars of investment, and point to economic growth averaging more than 6 percent a year since 2005.
ElBaradei said growth hasn’t benefited all Egyptians arguing that 42 percent of them still live in poverty.