ElBaradei keen to challenge Mubarak

CAIRO: Former UN atomic watchdog chief Mohammed ElBaradei has said he is prepared to run for president of Egypt even against veteran incumbent Hosni Mubarak, newspapers reported today.

ElBaradei said, “He was prepared to run for president, if the people ask me to, no matter who will run against me in elections,” he told Dream TV, in excerpts of an interview carried by independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.

He said Mubarak, head of state since 1981, would not necessarily win a free election and went on to criticise corruption and poverty in Egypt, saying all Egyptians should have access to medical services and a good education.

ElBaradei, who returned to Cairo on Friday to a rapturous welcome from hundreds of supporters, has repeatedly called for democratic change in Egypt since stepping down as International Atomic Energy Agency head.

The constitution as it stands bars an ElBaradei

candidacy. It requires

candidates to have been a leading member of a party

for at least one year and

for the party to have existed for at least five years.

As an independent, he would have to secure the backing of at least 250 elected officials from parliament’s upper and lower houses and from municipal councils, all bodies dominated by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. “For someone like myself to be unable to run

for president, this is a disaster. How can a constitution bar 99 per cent of the people from running?” he said on Dream television.

ElBaradei has been accused of being out of touch. “Stability is good and what we know is better than what we don’t know,” Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted senior NDP member Mustafa al-Fekki as saying.