Mohamed ElBaradei, who recently resigned as interim vice-president ending his political career in my opinion, had been the most controversial Egyptian politician in the last few years, and will remain a debatable figure for a good time to come.
ElBaradei, who had intended to live his life after retirement away from politics, dividing his time between Egypt and Europe, was somehow dragged into Egyptian politics by Egypt’s youth who were at the time looking for an appropriate figure to challenge Mubarak. They found ElBaradei to be a suitable candidate who met their criteria – an international figure and a Nobel Laureate, capable of challenging Mubarak and his regime.
ElBaradei, who had spent most of his political career in a bureaucratic international political organisation, which he headed based on his qualifications, faces major difficulties in understanding and communicating with Egyptian politicians (who, in turn have the same problem with him). This applies to those politicians with whom he joined forces as well as his opponents.
He wanted to apply his vision, values and strategic thinking to Egyptian politics. However, the Egyptian political scene is generally lacking in vision, has low moral standards and values, and no strategic thinking.
The majority of Egyptian politicians are opportunistic and aim to maximise their short term gains, while ElBaradei, seeking to apply a modern vision for Egypt, was not really keen on short-term gain, but rather on establishing a country based on true liberal democratic foundations. Thus, he preferred to convey his opinion behind the scenes and express his disinterest in an official role, realising that his personality is not well suited for such a role, which will not add to his career and may end up tarnishing it.
ElBaradei has always provided support and inspiration for the revolutionary youth. That he refrained from holding any government positions elevated him to the status of an idealistic reformist genuinely focused on realising the revolution’s goals. Apart from the youths’ support, ElBaradei was also supported by a very tiny elite who eventually turned against him after his resignation from the vice presidency. None of the existing traditional politicians managed to have the same impact on the youth and the revolution as ElBaradei, who was definitely a key factor in the toppling of Mubarak and the ousting of Mohamed Morsi.
ElBaradei did his utmost to avoid engaging heavily in Egyptian politics, always declining any leadership position. Prior to Mubarak’s toppling, he refused to join any political organisations, such as the National Association for Change.
However after the January 25 Revolution, he was often dragged into various organisations and meetings whose outcome did not meet his standard. He eventually established and headed his own Al-Dostour Party, albeit reluctantly.
He was eventually chosen by members of the National Salvation Front (NSF) to lead the organisation despite that the lack of admiration by many of the parties and organisations that constituted the front. He was selected for his international recognition as a Nobel Laureate and well-known diplomat. The front could not reach a consensus on any other leader. Later, after ElBaradei was appointed interim VP, the NSF was not able to replace him.
Applying his vision and values, ElBaradei had called for the legitimisation of the Muslim Brotherhood during the Mubarak era, and the Brotherhood benefited from this stance.
After Morsi came to power, the Brotherhood returned the favour by accusing him of precipitating the war on Iraq. After the ousting of Morsi, ElBaradei was the only key politician who tried to avoid a crack down on the Brotherhood sit-ins and extended the state’s offer for negotiations.
ElBaradei’s biggest mistake was not his recent resignation, although badly timed it was his acceptance of the position of Vice-President in the current interim government. This government that was not only meant to replace the Islamist one but also crack down on the Brotherhood, a goal that obviously clashed with ElBaradei’s values.
It might have been preferable if he had submitted his resignation in coordination with the interim president with whom he had agreed to team up during the current crisis.
ElBaradei’s role was often compared to that of Gandhi and Mandela. However, Egyptians are not currently in the mood for either one. Unfortunately the Egyptian political scene is currently dominated by extreme polarisation and therefore cannot accommodate a personality with high moral standards like ElBaradei.