-Taken from the Guardian
-Cairo - September 2010
Former UN nuclear weapons chief and prominent Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei has called on Egyptians to boycott next month's parliamentary elections, threatening a campaign of mass civil disobedience if his demands for political reform continue to be ignored.
In his most provocative speech to date since making a high-profile return to Cairo earlier this year, the Nobel Laureate warned that the poll would be marred by fraud, and that "anyone who participates in the vote either as a candidate or a voter goes against the national will".
He went on to claim that the three-decade rule of president Hosni Mubarak was a "decaying, nearly collapsing temple", and promised activists that regime change was possible in the coming year.
Mubarak, 82, is believed to be in poor health, and there is speculation his son Gamal is being groomed to succeed him ahead of next year's presidential ballot. ElBaradei's intervention comes at the end of a tumultuous few weeks in the race for the presidency, during which the 68-year-old accused the government of waging a smear campaign against him following the publication on Facebook of photos purporting to show his daughter posing in a swimsuit alongside bottles of alcohol.
The creator of the Facebook page, entitled "Secrets of the ElBaradei family', said the images proved ElBaradei's family were atheists, a politically devastating accusation in a predominantly Muslim country. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) denied involvement.
The Facebook controversy is the latest development to shake up Egypt's traditionally stagnant political landscape as rival forces begin jockeying for position in anticipation of Mubarak's reign – which has been criticised for human rights abuses – coming to an end. In a sign of potential splits within the NDP, posters backing intelligence chief Omar Suleiman for the top job were recently pasted anonymously on top of placards bearing the face of the president's son, only to be removed by security services the following morning. Egyptian newspapers were banned by the government from reprinting the images.
ElBaradei's National Association for Change, which is among those campaigning against inheritance of power, announced this week it was nearing 1 million signatures in support of the former IAEA director's call for constitutional change. ElBaradei has insisted he will not stand in next year's presidential elections unless reforms take place to ensure the vote is free and fair.
In the meantime, he is trying to persuade the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest organised opposition movement, to join the boycott of next month's parliamentary elections.
"If the whole people boycott the elections totally it will be, in my view, the end of the regime," he told supporters yesterday.