Mohamed ElBaradei announced his plans to run for president of Egypt today. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former leader of the UN nuclear watchdog agency said on Egyptain television, though, that he would only run if "a real democratic system were put into place," The New York Times reports. Western analysts have been worried about groups like the Muslim Brotherhood stepping into the power vacuum in Egypt. So does ElBaradei's announcement change that? Here's what we could find of expert opinion on the subject.
What are ElBaradei's chances of winning?
Upon ElBaradei's returned to his Egypt last year after a career abroad; the Guardian's Jack Shenker reported at the time he "was greeted at Cairo airport by more than 1,000 supporters, despite a ban on political gatherings." He has since inserted himself directly into the center of Egypt's current revolution. "Egypt's youth reached out to him as a leader in their calls for reform, seeing him as independent, untainted by state corruption and as a figure who represents international success," notes Al Jazeera. A year before Egypt's recent uprising, Time's Abigail Hauslohner pegged ElBaradei as a potentially realistic challenger to Mubarak.
Though public support for ElBaradei looks strong, two factors may stand in the way of a successful presidential campaign. The country's current military rulers have written several constitutional amendments creating presidential term limits and allowing for opposition candidates as part of an effort "to move Egypt toward democracy," writes Al Jazeera. ElBaradei, though, disregards these measures as "superficial," and also expresses fear that "the current lack of security would hamper ability of authorities to secure the elections or protect people going to vote."
How would the West feel about an ElBaradei presidency?
On the one hand, ElBaradei is not the Muslim Brotherhood bogeyman critics in the U.S. have been fearing might appear in the vacuum left by Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood did throw its support behind ElBaradei as an opposition leader at the end of January, but ElBaradei himself is "secular" and "liberal," as described by The Wall Street Journal.
Then again, back in February prior to Mubarak stepping down, Simon Morgan at Middle East Online argued that Western diplomats and analysts were a bit skeptical of ElBaradei as a long-term leader. Morgan quoted an "analyst at London-based Exclusive Analysis" as sayinig ElBaradei's "basis of power is fairly small," while US State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley told Morgan that Washington simply considered ElBaradei to be "one of many different voices that should be heard during these negotiations with the government." Firas Abi Ali, a researcher at Berlin's Free University, suggested that some see ElBaradei as taking advantage of the situation. "[They] would most likely see him as a Johnny-come-lately who was jumping on the opportunity," Ali told Morgan. "He is not the leader of this movement and he did not instigate these protests." It's possible, though, those quoted have changed their mind now that the situation is different, and the military is in control.