Leading Egyptian reformist Mohammad Al Baradei's decision not to run for president is set to reshape the political landscape five months ahead of the presidential election, experts have said.
"Al Baradei managed in a short time to gain wide popularity among young Egyptians due to his campaign for genuine reforms before and after the revolution," said Amr Hashemi, a political expert.
Al Baradei, a Nobel Peace prize winner, was a major catalyst in a popular revolt that forced long-standing president Hosni Mubarak to step down last February.
In a surprise statement, Al Baradei, 69, said on Saturday he would not run for president due what he called the military's mismanagement of the country during the transitional period.
"My conscience will not allow to nominate myself without having a real democratic system," he said.
He accused the military, which took over after Mubarak's downfall, of acting as "though no revolution took place and no regime was ousted".
Hashemi warned that Al Baradei's pullout may trigger "a wave of violence" on the first anniversary of the anti-Mubarak revolt on January 25. Protest activists have been critical of the military rulers, accusing them of seeking to quash the objectives of the revolution.
Al Baradei said in his statement he would continue to cooperate with young Egyptians who "represent dream and hope".
A dozen Egyptian politicians have already said they will stand for presidential election, expected in mid-June.
The list includes Amr Mousa, the former chief of the Arab League; Abdul Munem Abul Fetouh, a renegade from the influential Muslim Brotherhood; Ahmad Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister; Hamdan Sabah, a leftist politician, and radical Islamist Salah Abu Esmail.
"I do not think that Al Baradei's withdrawal will tip the balance in favour of a certain presidential contender," said Mahmoud Khalil, a media expert.
"All the people who have already said they will run are not big favourites. I think Egypt's next president has not come forward yet."
According to Khalil, the new president will have to secure support from three major powers: the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and the public.
"[Not one] of the present candidates has got this triple backing," he said.
Most of the presidential hopefuls said they were shocked at Al Baradei's decision not to run.
By Ramadan Al Sherbini