Monday, December 5, 2011

Russian communists win support as Putin party fades

Just 20 years ago, they seemed consigned to the dustbin of history. At Sunday's parliamentary polls, Russia's communists drew students, intellectuals, even some businessmen in forging an opposition to Vladimir Putin's wounded United Russia party.

The Communist Party for most Russians evokes images of bemedalled war veterans and the elderly poor deprived of pensions and left behind in a "New Russia" of glitzy indulgence. Large swathes of society have appeared beyond the reach of the red flag and hammer and sickle.

Until Sunday.

Not that the Communist Party's doubling of its vote to about 20 percent presages any imminent assault on power. The memories of repression in the old communist Soviet Union, the labour camps and the "Red Terror" are still too fresh for many. But vote they did, if perhaps with gritted teeth.

"With sadness I remember how I passionately vowed to my grandfather I would never vote for the Communists," Yulia Serpikova, 27, a freelance location manager in the film industry, told Reuters. "It's sad that with the ballot in hand I had to tick the box for them to vote against it all."

For many Russians disillusioned by rampant corruption and a widening gap between rich and poor, the communists represented the only credible opposition to Putin's United Russia.

Through all the turmoil of the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed, the party retained a strong national organisation based on regions and workplace.

With access to official media limited for the opposition, this has been a huge advantage.

"The Communists are the only real party out there," said one Western banker in Moscow. "United Russia is a joke, Just Russia is a joke and the LDPR is a joke and many people know it. So they vote communist because they realize it is a real vote for the opposition and against United Russia.

"This is as ironic as you get."


United Russia was founded largely as a vehicle for Putin, whose authority suffered a blow with the party's fall in support from 64 percent in 2007 around 50 percent, according to exit polls and early official results.

The nationalist LDPR is built around one man, the colourful and somewhat eccentric Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Other parties lack national structure.

"United Russia has angered everybody, so people are looking for an alternative," said Alexander Kurov, 19, one of a long line of students in slippers and T-shirts queuing to vote inside the marble halls of Moscow's mammoth Soviet-built state university dormitory.

"I don't particularly like the communists but there is no one else (to vote for) and I don't want my vote to be stolen," Kurov, a student of physics, told Reuters.

At the Communist Party headquarters hung with portraits of Lenin and heavy gold-on-red velvet hammer-and-sickle banners, party leader Gennady Zyuganov complained of fraud and described the election as "theft on an especially grand scale".

"Despite their efforts to break public opinion, the country has refused to support United Russia," he said.

He said police had barred Communist monitors from several polling stations across the country, adding that "some ended up in hospital with broken bones". Some ballot boxes, he said, had been stuffed with ballots before voting began.

In a bizarre flip, today's communists have benefited from satire on Russia's vibrant blogosphere comparing Putin's party to the all powerful Communist Party of Soviet times.

One popular image shows Putin's face aged and superimposed on a portrait of doddering Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, mocking the prime minister's plan to return to the presidency in March for two possible terms until 2024.

Voters wary of United Russia said their decision was purely a matter of cold electoral arithmetic, backing the party most likely to cross a seven percent threshold and win enough seats to act as a counterweight to Putin's party.

"I am voting against Putin, to weaken his party, so it makes sense to vote for a party that will make it in," Sergei Yemilianov, 46, a mathematics professor, said.

Analyst Masha Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Center described votes gained by the Communist Party as "similar to writing a four letter word on the ballot."

"It's a sign of defiance," she told Reuters. "The government has turned this election into a farce and in response people are turning their electoral choice into a travesty."


Preceptions among some Russians that the nationalist LDPR party and Just Russia are in the Kremlin's pocket and will vote with United Russia in parliament also helped the communists.

"We are losing votes to the Communist Party, who people think of as more of an opposition party because it doesn't have a history of cooperation with the authorities like we sadly do," Gennady Gudkov, a senior lawmaker with Just Russia, said.

Russia's lower house is largely considered a rubber stamp body for the Kremlin, but if United Russia loses its majority experts say the new balance of power may see the return of some real political debate.

One communist lawmaker hailed the victory as "a new political reality" on Sunday evening.

"They are a different party than in Soviet times," Anna, 21, a student of mechanics at the Moscow State University, said. "I have a lot of friends who are activists for the Communists Party. It's become popular."

Young Communist Party deputy Yuri Afonov, 34, told Reuters by telephone from Tambov that people were upset with the political order and many saw the Internet as the only place in which real opinions were voiced.

The Communist Party may be a long way from fundamentally changing its image. Its success may reflect disenchantment with Putin and his party far more than a new yen for communist order.

But one contributor to the Communist Party's chat forum offered a new genre of 'communist cool' with a rap composition.

"Want to get back what they took from me

Free schooling ain't no free lunch

Free medicine is my right, you see

What matters to you? Whose side you on?

Want to help your country

So it's our choice and it's our rap

So we go vote for the CPRF"

Putin's party suffers losses

While Russian police arrested 170 opposition protesters in two cities, voters in the country's parliamentary election appeared to eat away at Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's support in Sunday's elections, slimming down his party's parliamentary majority.

With more than 70% of the total vote counted, Putin's United Russia party is far and away the winner of Sunday's elections with 49.9%, followed by 19.4% for the runner-up Communist Party, according to the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion. The Fair Russia party has 12.9% and the Liberal Democratic party has 11.9%.

But the poll numbers add up to a significant loss. If they are an accurate reflection of the election results, United Russia stands to lose many of the 300 seats it currently holds in the 450-seat Duma -- Russia's parliament.

President Dmitry Medvedev, who headed the United Russia ticket, said the party made a "decent showing," and that "the result of these parliament elections reflects people's attitudes"

"United Russia remains the leader and the largest political force elected to the parliament," Medvedev said in remarks at his party's headquarters. "The party has proven it has a moral right to continue the chosen course."

Putin, who spoke after Medvedev, thanked those who voted for his party "despite the difficulties, despite the economic crisis."

"Based on this result, we will manage to ensure the stable development of our state," Putin said. "I would like to thank everybody who facilitated this result."

Analysts had anticipated Putin's party would win less support than four years ago -- but would maintain a majority. With three parties not receiving enough votes to take a seat in parliament, as the opinion poll indicates, then United Russia could still hold on to majority.

Around 100 opposition protesters were arrested in Moscow according to official news agency RIA Novosti, which sourced police. Authorities detained 70 more in St. Petersburg. Police had warned protesters earlier in the day not to hold "unsanctioned rallies" in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported.

Opposition websites, radio stations and an election monitoring group claimed they had come under online attack.

The Golos election watchdog organization said callers reported about 1,000 elections violations on a telephone hotline while its website was under cyber attack. Russia's Interfax news agency reported that several other radio and newspaper websites had reported attacks.

The allegations came as voters cast their ballots in polls for the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament.

"It's a very important test for the ruling party," Dmitry Babich, a political analyst with RIA Novosti, told CNN.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, recently tapped by his United Russia Party to be its presidential candidate next year, has accused the West of trying to influence the elections.

In campaigning ahead of the vote, opponents accused the ruling party of corruption and nepotism, RIA Novosti reported.

Putin said last week that his party had earned the support of "every thoughtful, objective, serious person who wants a better lot for himself, for his children and for Russia," the news agency said.

Russia's Interior Ministry opened three criminal cases and reported hundreds of other "electoral breaches," RIA Novosti said, citing the ministry's press office.

Moscow police said they detained about 12 people who were distributing political leaflets -- a practice banned on election day.

Golos said there was increasing pressure at the local level to block observers from accessing polls.

"It is clear that these actions are taken by authorities to undermine the achievement of our long-term goal -- to make the elections in Russia free and fair by impartial and independent monitoring," the organization said in a statement.

Maria Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told CNN Sunday that elections had become "increasingly farcical during Putin's leadership."

"The last time we had an election at the federal level without a pre-ordained result was '99," she said. "Since then all elections have pre-ordained results and were to maintain the political monopoly of the ruling elite."

In a taped interview with Russia's national TV networks in September, President Medvedev criticized allegations that Russia's elections had a predetermined outcome.

"I consider such statements absolutely irresponsible, deceitful, and even provocative," he said.

In September Medvedev called on the United Russia party to endorse Putin for president in 2012. Putin in turn suggested that Medvedev should take over the role of prime minister if the party wins elections, in what would be a straight swap of their roles.

The announcement ended more than two years of speculation about whether Putin or Medvedev -- Putin's hand-picked successor -- would seek to run for a second term.

Putin stepped down as president in 2008 because the Russian constitution at that time limited the office to two consecutive four-year terms.

Under amendments to the constitution that came into force on December 31, 2008, the presidential term was extended to six years.

This means that if Putin is elected in March 2012 for six years, he would be eligible to run for another six-year term after that, potentially keeping him in charge until 2024.

Madonna to headline Super Bowl halftime show

Madonna will take center stage at halftime of Super Bowl XLVI, flanked by Cirque du Soleil performers in what traditionally is one of the year's most watched shows.

The NFL announced Sunday night, in a press release, that the Michigan-born singer would headline the halftime show on February 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

She follows other high-profile acts in recent years, including the Black Eyed Peas and Usher during the most recent edition of pro football's championship game at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

Other past performers including Bruce Springsteen, Prince, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. The halftime show has also been the subject of controversy, specifically in 2004 during Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" while singing alongside Justin Timberlake.

The league calls the show "the most-watched musical event of the year," with more than 162 million people tuning in last year in the United States alone.

A 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Madonna is ranked by the Guinness Book of World Records as the top-selling female recording artist of all time.

She erupted on the scene in the '80s, selling 60 million records that decade and scoring several No. 1 hits including "Like a Virgin," "Papa Don't Preach" and "Crazy for You."

She continued her momentum in the 1990s with her Blonde Ambition Tour and also made headlines as a provocateur for her album "Erotica" and X-rated picture book "Sex."

Even with a growing family, Madonna has continued working -- including releasing several more albums and books. She has also acted in several films over the course of her career such as "Evita," "Desperately Seeking Susan" and "Dick Tracy."

Khan Academy:Online Learning, Personalized

Jesse Roe, a ninth-grade math teacher at a charter school here called Summit, has a peephole into the brains of each of his 38 students.

He can see that a girl sitting against the wall is zipping through geometry exercises; that a boy with long curls over his eyes is stuck on a lesson on long equations; and that another boy in the front row is getting a handle on probability.

Each student’s math journey shows up instantly on the laptop Mr. Roe carries as he wanders the room. He stops at each desk, cajoles, offers tips, reassures. For an hour, this crowded, dimly lighted classroom in the hardscrabble shadow of Silicon Valley hums with the sound of fingers clicking on keyboards, pencils scratching on paper and an occasional whoop when a student scores a streak of right answers.

The software program unleashed in this classroom is the brainchild of Salman Khan

, an Ivy League-trained math whiz and the son of an immigrant single mother. Mr. Khan, 35, has become something of an online sensation with his Khan Academy math and science lessons on YouTube, which has attracted up to 3.5 million viewers a month.

Now he wants to weave those digital lessons into the fabric of the school curriculum — a more ambitious and as yet untested proposition.

This semester, at least 36 schools nationwide are trying out Mr. Khan’s experiment: splitting up the work of teaching between man and machine, and combining teacher-led lessons with computer-based lectures and exercises.

As schools try to sort out confusing claims about the benefits of using technology in the classroom, and companies ponder the profits from big education contracts, Khan Academy may seem like just another product vying for attention.

But what makes Mr. Khan’s venture stand out is that the lessons and software tools are entirely free — available to anyone with access to a reasonably fast Internet connection.

“The core of our mission is to give material to people who need it,” Mr. Khan said. “You could ask, ‘Why should it be free?’ But why shouldn’t it be free?”

For now, Mr. Khan’s small team is subsidized by more than $16.5 million from technology donors, including Bill Gates, Google, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the O’Sullivan Foundation. He intends to raise an endowment. And this summer, starting in the Bay Area, where he is based, he plans to hold an educational summer camp.

It is too early to know whether the Khan Academy software makes a real difference in learning. A limited study with students in Oakland, Calif., this year found that children who had fallen behind in math caught up equally well if they used the software or were tutored in small groups. The research firm SRI International is working on an evaluation of the software in the classroom.

Mr. Khan’s critics say that his model is really a return to rote learning under a high-tech facade, and that it would be far better to help children puzzle through a concept than drill it into their heads.

“Instead of showing our students a better lecture, let’s get them doing something better than lecture,” Frank Noschese, a high school physics teacher in Cross River, N.Y., wrote on his blog in June.

But in education circles, Mr. Khan’s efforts have captured imaginations and spawned imitators. Two Stanford professors have drawn on his model to offer a free online artificial intelligence class. Thirty-four thousand people are now taking the course, and many more have signed up. Stanford Medical School, which allows its students to take lectures online if they want, summoned Mr. Khan to help its faculty spice up their presentations.

And a New York-based luxury real estate company credited Mr. Khan with inspiring its profit-making venture: the Floating University, a set of online courses taught by academic superstars, repackaged and sold to Ivy League colleges and eventually to anyone who wants to pay for them.

“What Khan represents is a model that’s tapped into the desire that everyone has to personalize the learning experience and get it cheap and quick,” said Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the Education Department.

Mr. Shelton predicted that there would be “a bunch of knockoffs” that would take the Khan approach and try to expand on it. “This is going to spread like wildfire,” he said.

Mr. Khan grew up in a suburb of New Orleans, where his mother, who is from Bangladesh, raised him on her own by cobbling together a series of jobs and businesses. He went to public schools, where, as he recalls, a few classmates were fresh out of jail and others were bound for top universities.

Math became his passion. He pored over textbooks and joined the math club. He came to see math as storytelling. “Math is a language for thinking,” he said, “as opposed to voodoo magical incantations where you have no idea where they’re coming from.”

The YouTube lectures got their start six years ago when Mr. Khan needed a way to help a cousin catch up on high school math. They are startlingly simple. Each one covers a single topic, like long division or the debt crisis, usually in a bite-size 10-minute segment. The viewer hears Mr. Khan talking, in his typically chatty, older brother sort of way. But his face is never seen, just his scribbles on the screen. More recently he has included two outside specialists to give lectures on art history topics like the Rosetta Stone and Caravaggio.

Today, the Khan Academy site offers 2,700 instructional videos and a constellation of practice exercises. Master one concept, move on to the next. Earn rewards for a streak of correct answers. For teachers, there is an analytics dashboard that shows both an aggregate picture of how the class is doing and a detailed map of each student’s math comprehension. In other words, a peephole.

Diane Tavenner, chief of the Summit chain of four charter schools, said that at first she was ambivalent about using Mr. Khan’s software. It would require buying laptops for every student and investing in more Internet capacity. And she found the Khan Academy model of instructor and blackboard — albeit a digital one — to be a bit too traditional.

In the past, math class at the Summit schools was always hands-on: the class worked on a problem, usually in small groups, sometimes for days at a time. But getting an entire class of ninth graders to master the fundamentals of math was never easy. Without those, the higher-level conceptual exercises were impossible.

That is where the machine came in handy. The Khan software offered students a new, engaging way to learn the basics.

Ms. Tavenner says she believes that computers cannot replace teachers. But the computer, she recognizes, can do some things a teacher cannot. It can offer personal feedback to a whole room of students as they work. And it can give the teacher additional class time to do more creative and customized teaching.

“Combining Khan with that kind of teaching will produce the best kind of math,” she argued. “Teachers are more effective because they have a window into the student’s mind.”

Ms. Tavenner’s students here inhabit a world that seems distant from the dazzle and wealth of adjacent Silicon Valley. Nearly half come from families where English is a second language. Forty percent qualify for free lunches. So pervasive is gang violence in the area that school uniforms have been mandated as a safeguard against the display of gang colors. Not all students have a computer at home, or parents who can help with homework.

Math class at Summit on one afternoon this fall began like many around the country. Mr. Roe was at the whiteboard at the head of the room, explaining order of operations — the math concept that dictates the sequence in which calculations should be performed in a long equation. Handouts were passed out, and there was a series of questions and answers.

In the second hour, the students were huddled over laptops, each working on a different set of exercises. Nicole Bermudez, 14, was on geometry. She had trouble with math in middle school. Her teacher, she said, had no time to help her, and her mother did not have the patience. “She would just yell at me. She would say, ‘You can’t get it? This is simple math.’ ”

The Khan Academy software, she pointed out, offers hints and instructional videos to nudge her ahead. It waits until she has mastered one concept before she can move on to the next. She can ask Mr. Roe when she is really stuck.

In the back of the class, two girls wearing headphones watched one of Mr. Khan’s videos. Moses Rodriguez plodded slowly through some exercises, his attention occasionally wandering until Mr. Roe came around and prodded him. The classroom was quiet, apart from the occasional eruptions of victory.

“Is your brain hurting yet?” one girl asked her neighbor.

Polio Continues To Afflict Pakistan's Baluchistan Region
Health officials in the southern Pakistani province of Baluchistan say new polio cases have been reported across the region despite repeated antipolio campaigns, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

Provincial Health Secretary Asmatullah Kakar told RFE/RL the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is asking Pakistani officials why polio cases are on the rise despite the huge amount of money that has been spent on vaccinations.

Kakar said there were now 62 cases there of the viral disease, also known as infantile paralysis, which can affect nerves and lead to partial or full paralysis.

"One reason is [parents'] refusal [to have their children vaccinated], and, secondly, some areas are not accessible," Kakar said. "This is the responsibility of every individual, each religious and tribal elder, and only then can we control it."

Kakar said his department has demoted several district health officers for poor performance and deployed new officers in an effort to control polio's spread.

Antipolio campaigner Abdul Wahab Atal says people are not heeding the call to ensure that their children are administered the vaccine drops.

"Some people are not cooperating for religious reasons, because they are exposed to propaganda about the drops, while others have doubts about the effectiveness of the drops," Atal said. "In their view: How can a few drops of liquid help eradicate a serious disease?"

Villagers in remote areas say they don't know about the campaign, but some parents appear to be resisting the effort.

"When the polio teams visit our house, my parents tell them there are no children in the house," 5-year-old Saifullah, who says his parents refused to give him polio drops the last time a health team visited their house, told RFE/RL.

Obama condolences for Pakistan airstrike deaths

President Barack Obama

on Sunday expressed condolences to Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari for the deaths last month of 24 Pakistani troops, saying the NATO airstrikes that killed them were not a "deliberate attack."

A White House statement said Obama placed a call early Sunday to Zardari expressing his regrets over the "tragic loss" and promising a "full investigation" into the incident, which has plunged the two uneasy allies into a diplomatic crisis.

Obama "made clear that this regrettable incident was not a deliberate attack on Pakistan and reiterated the United States' strong commitment to a full investigation," the statement said.

Islamabad has so far refused to take part in a US investigation into the November 26 air strikes on the Afghan border.

But the White House said Obama and Zardari nonetheless "reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship, which is critical to the security of both nations, and they agreed to stay in close touch."

In the wake of the strikes, Pakistan decided not to take part in the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan that opens Monday -- a decision which, together with the Taliban's boycott, has cast the event's usefulness into doubt.

Pakistan has also shut down NATO's vital supply line into Afghanistan and ordered American personnel to leave Shamsi air base.

The base is widely understood to have been a hub for the covert CIA drone war on Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders in Pakistan's troubled border areas with Afghanistan.

Egypt's ElBaradei: Liberals 'decimated' in vote

Egypt's top reformist leader said Sunday the liberal youth behind the country's uprising have been "decimated" in parliamentary elections dominated by Islamists and expressed concern about the rise of hard-line religious elements advocating extremist ideas such as banning women from driving.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Prize laureate and possible presidential candidate, said he hopes moderate Islamists will rein in the extremists and send a reassuring message to the world that Egypt will not go down an ultraconservative religious path.

"The youth feel let down. They don't feel that any of the revolution's goals have been achieved," ElBaradei told The Associated Press in an interview on the same day electoral authorities announced that Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority of votes in the first round of elections last week. "They got decimated," he said, adding the youth failed to unify and form "one essential critical mass."

The High Election Commission announced that the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party garnered 36.6 percent of the 9.7 million valid ballots cast last week for party lists. The Nour Party, representing the more hard-line Salafi Islamists, captured 24.4 percent.

The tallies offer only a partial indication of how the new parliament will look. There are still two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country's 27 provinces over the coming month and runoff elections on Monday and Tuesday to determine almost all of the seats allocated for individuals in the first round. But the grip of the Islamists over the next parliament appears set, particularly considering their popularity in provinces voting in the next rounds.

ElBaradei said he thought the combined strength of the two top-placed Islamist blocs surprised everyone, probably even the winning parties themselves.

"The outcome so far is not the greatest one," he said, summing up the mood of the country's educated elite as well as average Egyptians as "angst."

The new parliament will be tasked, in theory, with selecting a 100-member panel to draft the new constitution. If Islamist parties dominate, more liberal forces worry the constitution will be greatly influenced by the religious perspective.

In a move that angered the Islamist groups, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control of the country after Mubarak's fall in February, has suggested that it will choose 80 of those members.

ElBaradei said writing the constitution that respects human rights, dignity and freedom of expression should be based on a consensus among all the players, and not on a parliamentary majority.

"In my view, it is all in the hands of SCAF right now," he said, hoping the ruling generals will help promote the consensus.

However, ElBaradei was highly critical of the military rulers, saying they have "royally mismanaged" the transition period.

He also raised concerns about statements by some Salafi elements questioning whether women should be banned from driving, as they are in Saudi Arabia, or branding the novels of Egypt's Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, as "prostitution."

"I worry of course that some of the extreme stuff coming out from some of the Salafis ... when you hear that literature of somebody like Mahfouz is equal to prostitution, if you hear that we are still debating whether women are going to drive their cars, if we are still discussing whether democracy is against Shariah," or Islamic law, ElBaradei said.

"These are of course sending shockwaves, statements like that. I think the Brotherhood in particular, and some of the Salafis, should send quickly messages of assurance both inside the country and outside the country to make sure that society continues to be cohesive to make sure that investment will come in."

He said the statements "will have tremendous economic and political implications." Moderate Islamists need to "make clear that some of these voices ... are on the extreme fringes and they will not be the mainstream."

The focus on safeguarding religious principles should be mindful of rampant poverty and illiteracy, not "about what people are going to dress, to drink," he said.

Salafis are newcomers on Egypt's political scene. They long shunned the concept of democracy, saying it allows man's law to override God's. But they formed parties and entered politics after Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February, seeking to enshrine Islamic law in Egypt's new constitution.

By contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organized political group, was officially banned under Mubarak but established a nationwide network of activists. After Mubarak's fall, the group's Freedom and Justice Party campaigned fiercely, their organization and name-recognition giving them a big advantage over newly formed liberal parties.

ElBaradei said the Muslim Brotherhood's strong showing was not unexpected, given that Egypt is emerging from decades of brutal dictatorship that smothered civil society. He said one in every three Egyptians is illiterate and nearly half subsist in deep poverty.

"It should not be a surprise people are voting with their gut. People lost their sense of identity with the state. They identify with religion," ElBaradei said.

He said the Brotherhood has been working for many years providing basic needs for health care and other social services the government failed to deliver and they were well known throughout the country.

In contrast, the liberal youth groups behind the uprising failed to form a cohesive, unified front. He said they only formed political parties two months ago.

He predicted the Muslim Brotherhood will prefer to form an alliance with the liberals rather than the Salafis to get a majority in parliament. The liberal Egyptian Bloc — which came in third with 13.4 percent of the votes — could counterbalance hard-line elements.

Nevertheless, ElBaradei agreed the first elections since Mubarak's fall were free and fair and said the massive turnout of about 60 percent lent it legitimacy.

However, he said it will not produce a parliament that represents Egyptian society. ElBaradei said he expects few women, youths or Coptic Christians, a minority that constitutes about 10 percent of Egypt's 85 million citizens.

The rise of the Islamists has also caused concern in the U.S. and Israel, which has a long-standing peace treaty with Egypt it fears might be in jeopardy. But ElBaradei said he does not foresee any radical changes in Egypt's foreign policy because the country still depends heavily on foreign assistance and cannot afford to isolate itself. Egypt is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid.

He said Egyptians are looking more to Turkey as a model for a moderate Islamist state rather than Saudi Arabia and its strict imposition of Islamic law.

ElBaradei said Egypt has progressed since the revolution but the economy and law and order have deteriorated sharply.

"We are now a freer country," he said. "People lost their sense of fear. ...We are empowered as a people."

He said he is advising the liberal youth groups not to give up and to view this as a "long haul" process and to start preparing for the next elections, overcome their ideological differences and work together.

"We'll have to keep fighting," he said, adding that "the revolution is still a work in progress."

He predicted protesters will return to Cairo's Tahrir Square to keep pressing their demands.

"If you have the second wave of the revolution, it will be an angry one," he said.