ElBaradei proposes alternative transition path

Mohamed ElBaradei seems to be picking up from the clear enthusiasm in Tahrir for an immediate transition to civilian rule and the refusal by many activists of a constitution drawn under military rule and offering a new initiative:

Egyptian dissident Mohammed ElBaradei on Friday proposed a new political timetable for the country, amid growing discontent over the military rulers’ handling of the transition from Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

The ex-UN nuclear watchdog chief called for the newly elected “parliament to elect an interim president immediately”, followed by the formation of a panel to draft a new constitution.

In a statement on his Facebook page, ElBaradei said the new charter “must define the political system and guarantee a civil state, rights and freedoms.”

A president would then be elected “whose powers are defined by the new constitution” followed by elections for a new parliament, he said.

“After a year of fumbling, it is time to agree on correcting the course,” he said.

Earlier this month, ElBaradei announced his withdrawal from the presidential race, saying he could not run because there is still no real democracy.

Egyptian dissident Mohammed ElBaradei on Friday proposed a new political timetable for the country, amid growing discontent over the military rulers’ handling of the transition from Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

The ex-UN nuclear watchdog chief called for the newly elected “parliament to elect an interim president immediately”, followed by the formation of a panel to draft a new constitution.

In a statement on his Facebook page, ElBaradei said the new charter “must define the political system and guarantee a civil state, rights and freedoms.”

A president would then be elected “whose powers are defined by the new constitution” followed by elections for a new parliament, he said.

“After a year of fumbling, it is time to agree on correcting the course,” he said.
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>Earlier this month, ElBaradei announced his withdrawal from the presidential race, saying he could not run because there is still no real democracy.

Here’s ElBaradei’s own shorthand of this plan, from his Twitter account:

The thing is, many will now wonder why he did not announce this initiative at the same time he made his announcement about withdrawing from the presidential race. ElBaradei left the scene without a clear explanation of what his alternative plan was, and this will seem opportunistic to some, especially when he did not come to Tahrir. I’ve met people who would be his natural supporters who said they’d like to punch him in the face for wasting their time for the past year – which I think is an ungenerous attitude considering ElBaradei was a crucial part of the things that made the revolution possible.

The next question will be who in parliament would back this initiative, and who in Tahrir Square among the activist groups who want an immediate transition will accept this proposal. The Freedom and Justice Party continues to be adamant about following SCAF’s transition plan, but there are signs of stress, such as this tweet today from Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater condemning SCAF’s reported adoption of a new law on al-Azhar without parliament as “a mistake of SCAF and al-Azhar”:

@khairatAlshater: لو صح إعتماد المجلس العسكري لقانون الأزهر فإن هذا يعد خطئا فادحا من المجلس و من مشيخة الأزهر على السواء - يتبع

Other parties are more uncertain. I’ve heard Free Egyptians Party officials also back the SCAF schedule, and I assume the MB’s allies are in favor. Salafi leaders are divided on this, but the al-Nour Party has not made its position clear. Things could change, but despite the large turnout in Tahrir, the many anti-SCAF chants and posters, it’s not clear how exactly that might unfold. Proposals for new elections are also likely to be unpopular with newly elected MPs. But, as I’ve written before, the creation of a transitional mini-constitution and a new president, followed by a two-year period to draft a lasting new constitution, might be a better approach.

Bottom line: There is a desire for a constitutional drafting process without SCAF oversight, that much is clear from the slogans and posters in the celebrations of the first anniversary of the uprising on Wednesday and today’s massive turnout in Tahrir (and presumably elsewhere) on that theme (although the square presumably also has plenty of people who don’t see things the same way). ElBaradei’s proposal offers a plan to do just that. But is it something that, today, is politically feasible? Too soon to tell – the “no constitution under military rule” movement will need support from political parties and the public.