When Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak came to power 28 years ago, the Berlin Wall still had another eight years to stand, AIDS was only just being recognized as a disease, and the Ford Cortina had another year to run on the automaker's production lines.
Little wonder then that some people in Egypt would like to see a fresh-faced successor to take the reins in elections slated for 2011.
But not, by any means, everyone.
"Respecting the current constitution ensures that the high post [of president] is occupied by the one who is worthy of it and qualified for it," the leading state newspaper Al Ahram said in an editorial. "The candidate should be aware of all the internal as well as the external affairs. It is not good enough to be an expert on nuclear disarmament. "
This widely publicized editorial was designed as a thinly veiled attack at the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (the IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, following a statement he made early December that he would consider running for Egyptian president if the elections were guaranteed to be fair.
"If the aim was, as he claims, for us all to work on establishing a society that serves humanity and ensures everyone the right of a prosperous secure life, then our decisions should draw largely on this status quo and not on some readings or analysis made by enemy forces that seek to stir chaos and instability. Those forces open the door for interference in the Egyptian internal affairs.
"We learned by experience that a society cannot be built except by its own people. Enough of the interference and enough of what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and the disasters that befell their peoples. Several intrusive policies had caused enough difficulties to our country and opened the door for the "creative chaos" that George Bush Junior told us about before he was gone, leaving behind his political errors and disasters. Dr. ElBaradei now wants to repeat those mistakes, thinking he could cause embarrassment to Egypt and its political system."
The fear of ElBaradei is shared by democracy activists who have labored against what they perceive as regime injustices.
At the front of the pack is Ayman Nour - Hosni Mubarak's only rival in the first 'open' elections of 2005. He was arrested nine months ahead of the 2005 poll, and only released four years later.
According to the Egyptian press, he sees ElBaradei as a rival to his own presidential ambitions.
In a headline, leading independent news outlet Al Masry Al Youm (The Egyptian Today) paraphrased Nour's position:
"Nour: Elbaradei's position is "vague" and his statement is a "diplomatic no" to presidential candidacy"
«نور»: موقف البرادعى «غامض».. وبيانه «اعتذار دبلوماسى» عن عدم الترشح للرئاسة
The paper itself was doubtful as to ElBaradei's chances:
"The bitter reality always gives some people the tendency to dream. This is the case with the next presidential elections in Egypt. The names of the candidates legally expected makes people dream of those who are not, according to the constitution, eligible for candidacy. The people have the right to dream about Egypt's presidency, which is by the way one of the advantages of the amendment to Article 76 of the constitution. It is not yet anyone's right to sell this dream to the Egyptians as reality."
لواقع المرير دائماً يجعل بعض الناس تتجه إلى الأحلام.. هذا هو حال الانتخابات الرئاسية المقبلة فى مصر.. فواقع أسماء المرشحين المتوقعين قانونياً يجعل الناس تحلم بأسماء لن تتمكن ـ وفقاً للدستور ـ من الترشح، ومن حق الناس أن تحلم برئاسة مصر، وهذه بالمناسبة إحدى مزايا تعديل المادة ٧٦ من الدستور، لكن ليس من حق أحد أن يبيع هذا الحلم أو الوهم للمصريين على أساس أنه حقيقة
At the same time, state ministers have been working the rounds, making sure the Egyptian people know that ElBaradei is not an 'appropriate' candidate for President - as Youm7 (The Seventh Day) reported:
"Dr. Mufid Shehab, Minister of State for Legal and parliamentary Affairs, denounced the talks circulating these days about ELBaradei's candidacy for the presidency of Egypt. He ruled out such possibility justifying that ElBaradei has little to do with political matters, the Arab World relations, and the Palestinian cause. He added that he was a prominent Egyptian scientist who had no political experience and did not know much about parliamentary life."
استنكر الدكتور مفيد شهاب وزير الدولة للشئون القانونية والمجالس النيابية، ما يتم ترويجه هذه الأيام عن ترشيح البرادعى نفسه لانتخابات رئاسة الجمهورية، مستبعداً حدوث ذلك لكون البرادعى، على حد وصفه، لم يتوغل فى العالم السياسى ولا العلاقات العربية ولا القضية الفلسطينية، فهو عالم مصرى جليل ليس له خبرة سياسية ولا يعلم عن الحياة البرلمانية والحزبية كثيراً
In Al Ahram, columnist Mohammad Al-Saadani put the state position more succinctly still:
"It seems as if ElBaradei has strayed into an area where he doesn't belong!"
يبدو ان البرادعي قد انزلقت قدماه الي ملعب ليس ملعبه
Passionate in support of ElBaradei, however, stands El Shorouk - another of Egypt's leading independent newspapers.
In an opinion piece in the paper, veteran Egyptian columnist Salama Ahmed Salama suggested that ElBaradei's minimum conditions to stand for the presidency in 2011 (ie. that the elections be fair) are unachievable - but worthy nonetheless:
"Does this mean that ElBaraedi is asking for unrealistic terms that are even not present in any democratic system worldwide? Isn't he really aware of the fact that the implementation of the said terms necessitates the full belief of the governing regime in democracy and its outcomes. Not only that, their implementation also hinges upon the consensus among the political powers about the necessity to face both implicit and explicit imbalances and irregularities in the political arena. Moreover, they will not be implemented save for giving full reign to the people to practice their political rights without dictation, suppression or rigging. Undoubtedly, ElBaradei knows this quite well. Hence he is suggesting such terms that everyone knows cannot be realized overnight. They need effort in addition to a change in opinions and mentality ( of those in power). What makes the matter worse is that ElBaradei looks as if he is crying in wilderness."
هل معنى ذلك فعلا أن البرادعى يطالب بشروط مستحيلة، لا مثيل لها فى النظم الديمقراطية الأخرى فى العالم.. وهل يغيب فعلا عن إدراكه أن مثل هذه الشروط يتطلب لتحقيقها إيمان جماعة الحكم بالديمقراطية وتبعاتها، وتوافق القوى السياسية على ضرورة تصحيح العوار الكامن والظاهر فى الحياة السياسية، وتمكين الشعب من ممارسة حرياته وحقوقه السياسية دون وصاية أو إملاء، ودون تزوير أو قمع! لا يوجد أدنى شك فى أن البرادعى يدرك ذلك تماما. ولذلك فهو يطرح هذه الشروط التى يعرف كل عاقل أنها لن تتحقق بين يوم وليلة، وأنها تحتاج إلى وقت وجهد لتنفيذها وإلى تغيير فى الآراء والعقلية ويضاعف من صعوبة الموقف أن البرادعى يبدو كمن يصرخ فى البرية
Commenters to the site responded in kind:
"I extend my regards to every honorable citizen concerned about the interest of our homeland and people," said one called Magda.
"I believe that God has bestowed His blessings upon Egypt by sending us Dr. ElBaradei. We have to cling to this chance, for he is the only hope and solution for our country's problems. His own traits testify to the fact that he would be able to resolve all our problems: He is an honorable, righteous, honest man who would eliminate corruption, bribery and favoritism."
تحياتى لكل مواطن شريف يهمه مصلحة هذا الوطن وهذا الشعب وأرى أن الله أراد بمصر خيراً أن أرسل لها د البرادعى وعلينا أن نتمسك بهذه الفرصه ولا نضيعها فهو الأمل والحل الوحيد لكل مشاكل هذا البلد فهو يحمل صفات تحل مشاكل هذا البلد جميعاً وهى : فهو رجل شريف ونزيه وصادق ليقضى على الفساد والرشوه والمحسوبيه والمنافقين والطفيليين الذين نهبوا ثرو
Writing on Meedan, one of the Egyptian users commenting on the story struck a more balanced tone, criticizing the state media attacks on ElBaradei's personality but also questioning ElBaradei's fitness to govern:
"As an Egyptian man, Mohammad ElBaradei has all the right to imply or to talk frankly about nominating himself, that I can understand. The attacks and distortion of the man's image in the state run newspapers are also fathomable because he simply represents the opposite of what they stand for. However, what I just cannot get is the blind support for the man from those who'd like him to run for president. They support him unconditionally without considering his program or how he views Egypt's problems and their solutions."
محمد البردعى كرجل مصرى من حقه أن يتكلم عن ترشيح نفسه مباشرهً أو تلميحا فهذا مفهوم .. وما حدث بالجرائد الحكوميه من هجوم وتشويه لصوره الرجل أيضا مفهوم لأنه يمثل الصوت النقيض لقناعتهم .. لكن الغير مفهوم من مؤيدى الترشيح أن تتخطى مؤازرتهم للرجل حد موافقتهم على الترشيح إلى التسليم والدعم بلا سقف دون النظر لبرنامجه وكيف يرى المشكلات فى مصر وكيف يرى الحل
-- Thanks to Tom El Rumi, Nouran, Rania, Deena and Malika for help with these translations.--
You can add your voice on ElBaradei's possible presidential bid on www.Meedan.net.