WASHINGTON — Leading Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei proposed Thursday that a three-person national unity government succeed President Hosni Mubarak and his deputy, and steer Egypt to democracy.
In an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, ElBaradei said the US-backed transition process led by Vice President Omar Suleiman will fail to take the country to democracy unless “we keep kicking their behinds.”
He added: “I think the whole process is a faulty process. You don’t get the fox to be in charge of the chicken coop.”
ElBaradei was interviewed in his Cairo home before Mubarak delivered a televised speech announcing a transfer of some powers to Suleiman, but did not step down, sparking an angry reaction from demonstrators massed in Tahrir Square.
ElBaradei recalled that Suleiman, whom Mubarak recently named his first ever vice president, said Egypt does not have the “culture” of democracy.
“No, I don’t have any confidence” in Suleiman, said ElBaradei.
The military leaders who have practiced dictatorship for decades “don’t understand, let alone are willing to move Egypt into democracy, unless we keep kicking their behinds,” he said.
ElBaradei said he urges young Egyptians, whom he says are the only ones who can bring change because they have “no hidden agenda,” to maintain their mass protests until they satisfy their demands — above all that Mubarak leave.
He implied Suleiman also leave when he said “there is no credibility in either Mubarak or Suleiman or anybody who is associated with that regime.”
His advice to the young people is to take charge of the “transitional period of a year,” he said.
“And I am suggesting a presidential council of three people, a transitional government of national salvation, national unity under a caretaker government of people who have sterling reputations, have experience,” he said.
The national unity government would “then prepare the country for free and fair elections,” he added.
He called for abolishing the current constitution and replacing it with a new one “which is really democratic, with a president who has checks and balances” on him.
He also pushed for abolishing the “rigged” parliament and replacing it with one that “has the power of the purse and oversight” as well as establishing an independent judiciary.
ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), outlined a similar political transition in an interview with Austria’s die Presse daily.
The dissident did not make clear his own political ambitions except to say that he has always described himself as “an agent for change” rather than a grassroots organizer.
“But I never said I’m not a politician,” he said.
He said that in the year he has been back in Egypt he has tried to lift the hopes of young Egyptians with the promise of democracy.
“My message to them is to try to make them feel that they are no different from other people, that they have all the tools, all the talents,” he said.
He tells them that “it’s only through democracy we will be able to change this whole system.”
He expressed fears that the regime risked making Egyptians more radical.
“If you try to crush them, you will then get into a bloody revolution,” he warned.