x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

ElBaradei attacks 'hated' Egyptian government

Opposition figure tells newspaper 'Egyptians have lived for so long in an authoritarian system that they don't even know what democracy really means, what it would change.'

Mohammed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear chief, attacked Egypt's "authoritarian" government and insisted political change was coming, in an interview Saturday with the Austrian daily Kurier.

"The more unpopular this regime becomes, the more it realises how much it is hated, the most authoritarian it becomes," ElBaradei told the newspaper, according to a German transcription of the interview published today.

"That's untenable in the long term, change will come," said Mr ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

"The timing only depends on when people will be able to throw off this culture of fear that the regime has created."

Mr ElBaradei, now an opposition figure who has campaigned for constitutional reform at home, said: "Egyptians have lived for so long in an authoritarian system, which tells them what they should or should not do, that they don't even know what democracy really means, what it would change."

However, he said, he saw hope in the younger generation.

"They haven't made arrangements with the system yet, they have their future before them. The so-called elite let itself be corrupted by the system a long time ago. It doesn't want any change."

Mr ElBaradei also voiced regret that the Arab world had distanced itself from democracy.

"Democracy is not like soluble coffee, where you stir it and it's done. You have to educate people and we weren't raised for democracy," he said.

Mr ElBaradei, who stepped down as director general of the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, in February, has called for constitutional amendments to allow independent candidates not affiliated to an existing party, such as himself, to run in Egyptian presidential elections next year.

He has also called for a boycott of next month's parliamentary polls.