|22 Apr 10
By Mary E. Stonaker
“Open Your Eyes! Before You Give Your Vote, Know Your Responsibilities and Rights.”
As the poster suggests, it is imperative for Egyptians to educate themselves on potential candidates and their right to vote.
Currently, the ambiguity of Article 77 of Egypt’s constitution [“The President of the Republic may be re-elected for other successive terms”] sets no limit on presidential terms. Incumbent President Hosni Mubarak has been in office since 1981 and has yet to abstain from an election.
It is articles such as this one that prospective presidential candidate Mohammed ElBaradei is demanding be changed.
Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed ElBaradei is, to date, the most popular potential to challenge Mubarak’s presidency in the September 2011 elections.
Increased international awareness and dialogue is likely ElBaradei’s main intention, says Brookings Doha Center’s Deputy Director Mr Shadi Hamid, especially given the difficulty of unseating Mubarak.
ElBaradei’s recent comments of withholding his bid for candidacy until the constitution is changed, supports this notion. Mubarak is unlikely to change the constitution to expose his office to the possibility of real change. ElBaradei is banned from running for office under the current constitution because he does not belong to an established political party in Egypt.
However, the 2005 Noble Peace Prize recipient has had great success in garnering attention for what he calls necessary changes to the country’s constitution, including extending suffrage to Egyptian citizens abroad.
Other political hopefuls in the race to the presidency include Ayman Nur and Hamdin Sabbahi. These men are quick to acknowledge ElBaradei’s popularity amongst their own base of supporters. However, the fundamental differences amongst the various opposition parties are beginning to create cracks in the veneer of ElBaradei’s potential candidacy.
A divided opposition is a threat to any true bid for presidency by ElBaradei yet perhaps an educated public is just as valuable.
ElBaradei has long criticized Egypt’s human rights record along with the blind eye given by other world leaders. Nations such as the United States are so eager to have an Arab ally, human rights offences are often ignored.
In February, ElBaradei established the National Association for Change, a coalition with aims of constitutional change. This group is specifically aimed at three articles [76, 77 and 88] which would change how a president is elected and how long he can stay in office.
Another hopeful target for ElBaradei’s change is ending the long standing state of emergency in Egypt. It is through this state of emergency that Mubarak has been allowed to rule with a tighter fist.
Hope comes from within Egypt as well as from vocal protestors abroad. In a rare allowance by Mubarak, young members of the National Association for Change, calling themselves the April 6th youth movement protested against police brutality this week in Cairo.
The true intent of ElBaradei’s campaign seems to be invigorating Egypt’s people to create their own rights.
Egyptian parliamentary elections will be held in May 2010 followed by presidential elections in September 2011.
Mary E. Stonaker volunteers for the Middle East Institute, Singapore.