After a victory by Islamist parties in the first round of elections, liberal critic Mohamed ElBaradei has ended his presidential bid amid concerns that Egypt's military rulers have mismanaged the transition to democracy.
Former UN atomic energy chief Mohamed ElBaradei withdrew his candidacy for the Egyptian presidency on Saturday, assailing the governing military council as a "repressive" remnant of Hosni Mubarak's deposed regime.
"My conscience does not allow me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless there is real democracy," ElBaradei said in a statement.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SACF), led by Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, has faced growing criticism after a violent crackdown in November and December on protesters who have grown impatient with the pace of democratic reform.
The current plan for democratic transition envisions parliamentary elections first for the lower house of parliament and then for the upper house. The legislature is then set to choose a 100 member body to write a new constitution. Presidential elections are scheduled for June.
ElBaradei criticized the SACF for not taking measures to "purify state institutions, particularly the media and the judiciary, of symbols of the old regime."
"We all feel that the former regime did not fall," ElBaradei said.
Tantawi and the governming military council are under fire for repressive policies
ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, is considered a leading voice for liberal reform in Egypt, where Islamist parties have won a decisive victory in the first round of parliamentary elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) garnered 46 percent of the vote for the lower house, while the more hard-line Nour Party received 26 percent of the vote.
"By pulling out of the presidential race, he [ElBaradei] is aligning himself with the youth movement and the liberals, who have been sidelined in the interim process by the Islamists," Hassan Nafaa, a political analyst and activist, told the news agency Reuters.
Nafaa said that ElBaradei's withdrawal is an acknowledgment that he does not have the grassroots support to win the presidency. ElBaradei, however, has vowed to remain politically active in Egypt.
"My decision is not a withdrawal from the scene, but a continuation to serve this country more effectively, away from power and free from all restrictions," he said.
Author: Spencer Kimball (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Andy Valvur