Ten days before the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, Mohamed ElBaradei’s announced yesterday he will drop out of the still-unscheduled (“end of June,” the generals say now) presidential race. “My conscience does not allow me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless there is real democracy,” he said in a statement.
There seems to be a consensus in Egypt that this could — could — galvanize anger at the military regime before the anniversary. It deeply undermines the generals’ pretentions to presiding over an open election. Al Masry al Youm offers a more sceptical account of ElBaradei’s role:
Looking back on his now failed campaign, ElBaradei never really was able to understand his role, or galvanize people in the country toward what he claims is the democratic future of Egypt. … Activists didn’t forget his slow manner of joining the ranks of the protests. One activist, who has been on the frontlines of clashes in the country for the past year, told Bikyamasr.com that “ElBaradei was so concerned with his image abroad that he forgot about his image here in Egypt.”
This seems to me jaundiced and unfair. Once he joined the protests, on the Revolution’s third day, I was impressed by how he let the young revolutionaries, kids a third of his age, dictate what this internationally lauded diplomat would do. Whatever his shortcomings, he subordinated his ego to a movement (and to political reality) in a way few Egyptian politicians could ever manage.
On the other hand, his divorce from the realities of most Egyptians’ lives only reflects the country’s class divides, which SCAF has grown increasingly adept at manipulating. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Nour will dominate the newly elected, however powerless, Parliament, their prospective policies are increasingly keeping cosmopolitan liberals focused on personal, rather than political freedoms — problematic if only because the latter are the sole guarantee of the former. “We respect beach tourism, says Brotherhood,” reads a headline in Bikya Masr, heralding the Ikhwan’s promise not to tamper with bikinis and booze.
The universe of Egypt’s revolutionary twitter users (a year ago, would I ever have written such a phrase?) is small: perhaps 50,000 people, judging from the followers of the major accounts. In this light, it’s ominous that Mosa’ab Elshamy (@mosaaberizing) wrote yesterday:
I’ve spent all day on the street and didn’t hear a single conversation about Baradei. Checked twitter, and it’s the only topic. Says a lot.