CAIRO — One of Egypt's leading democracy advocates on Wednesday slammed recent parliamentary elections as a farce and warned about the possibility of violence if authorities try to suppress popular rallies for reform.
Mohamed ElBaradei – the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been at the helm of a burgeoning opposition movement in Egypt – also reiterated his call for a boycott of next year's presidential elections.
The strong words from the former head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog appeared to be an attempt to revive his flagging profile after many have criticized him for frequent trips abroad and being all talk and no action.
"We should not be part of a farce," he said in a video message he posted on YouTube and his Facebook page. "I hope you boycott elections by not running or voting."
"The regime must understand that it is our right to march in peaceful demonstrations to demand change. It must understand, if we are prevented, we will resort to peaceful civil disobedience," he said, adding that, "if we are not allowed, the Egyptian people will have no choice but – I hope this will not happen – there will be violence."
Local and international observers accuse the authorities of manipulating the Nov. 28 balloting through vote-rigging and violence. Results showed a crushing victory for the ruling party.
ElBaradei called for the boycotting of the parliamentary elections and was initially ignored by most opposition parties.
After the first round of voting handed sweeping victories to government candidates, however, the two largest opposition groups pulled out of the election.
"Elections were the straw that broke the camel's back; it proved that the regime is incapable and not ready (to carry out reforms), and doesn't understand that it is impossible for the status quo to remain unchanged," ElBaradei said.
The Obama administration said it was disappointed by widespread reports of irregularities that cast doubt on the credibility of the first round of voting.
Cairo has rejected all criticism of its handling of elections as unacceptable interference in the country's affairs and refused to allow foreign observers to monitor the poll.
The 82-year-old Mubarak, who recently had gall bladder surgery, is believed to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him, but there is widespread public opposition and he could yet run himself for another six year term.
ElBaradei called on the opposition to boycott the presidential elections unless constitutional amendments to create a level playing field are adopted.
"Egyptians under the current constitution live as a bunch of slaves," he said. "This is the last chance for the regime to review itself and start democratic reform."
His call for reform earlier this year attracted the support of a wide range of groups, including Egypt's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which collected 90 percent of the signatures for ElBaradei's petition calling for constitutional amendments.
His star has dimmed, however, after most political groups, including the Brotherhood, decided to compete in elections. There were also complaints that ElBaradei is frequently traveling outside Egypt and does little more than make pronouncements without taking any concrete actions.