A determined fighter for Egyptian democracy

Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate and watchdog for Egyptian democracy. (Trudy Rubin)

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel peace laureate and former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog,  is a prescient, prickly fighter for democracy in Egypt. He caused an uproar when he came back to the country a year ago to run against then-president Hosni Mubarak; no one thought he had a snowball’s chance in the Sahara. But he allied himself with Facebook youth who took his calls for civil disobedience seriously.

I went to see him in his villa just outside Cairo, because he has been so outspoken in his concerns that a counter-revolution is in the works to undercut the revolution precipitated by Egypt’s young people in the past two months.

“The head of the regime is gone,” he told me, “but most of the regime is still staying.  What I see so far is an effort to scapegoat … the second tier. What we need is a complete cleansing of the regime.  To start with, for credibility, you need … transparency [from the military, who are now in charge]. It is not there from the army, they are not reaching out or consulting anybody, there is still quite a degree of control of TV which is still the main media for the ordinary Egyptian.”

I will write more about my interview with ElBaradei in my Sunday column, but I think his warnings need to be taken seriously. As he points out, without a more open political system, the two groups most likely to win the first post-revolution elections are the Muslim Brotherhood and a new party or parties made up of supporters of the old regime.