Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei is urging Egyptians to vote against constitutional amendments sponsored by the ruling military in a referendum Saturday.
ElBaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a conference in New Delhi on Friday that after decades of repression the newly formed political parties in Egypt should be given time to prepare for future parliamentary elections.
The referendum is the first major test of Egypt's transition to democracy after a popular uprising overthrew President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian rule.
ElBaradei said Egypt's fledgling political parties needed time to work through proposals to bring about democratic reforms, and adopting the military-sponsored constitutional amendments would only benefit the remnants of Mubarak's government or Muslim fundamentalist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
"We are working for a tolerant multiethnic society. We need a functioning democracy that ensures freedom of religion, speech and the right of people to lead lives of dignity," ElBaradei said.
He said such a momentous task could only be done with deliberation.
"Egypt needs to be a model for the entire Arab world as a modern, moderate state," he said.
ElBaradei left New Delhi later Friday for Cairo.