Former IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei’s announcement that he is withdrawing from the Egyptian Presidential race has taken everybody by surprise, with the move seen by many as an indictment of the new political system.
The reason this has been focused on is that ElBaradei combined his announcement with a condemnation of the military, and insisted the reason he was withdrawing was because the military junta was making it impossible for a fair election to take place.
But while the junta’s continued stranglehold on the government has spawned many concerns across the political spectrum, it is unclear if ElBaradei’s move was really a function of sudden anger over that long-standing complaint or just a recognition that his prospects were growing dim.
The Islamist factions were overwhelming winners in the elections for the lower house of parliament, and even among the non-religious candidates ElBaradei was seen as a distant second to former Arab League chief Amr Moussa. His political bloc is all but irrelevant, and while his name still carries weight within Egypt, it seems unlikely he would be able to turn the tables in a presidential campaign.
The recognition in ElBaradei’s camp that his campaign was a lost cost is nothing new, and indeed ElBaradei offered to abandon his presidential ambitions in November if the junta would appoint him “interim prime minister.”