EGYPT: Mohamed ElBaradei forms National Front for Change
After a meeting this week with 30 politicians representing various opposition groups, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, stepped up pressure on the Egyptian government by announcing the establishment of the National Front for Change.
"An agreement was reached to set up the new front, which is opened to all Egyptians from different political orientations. Its main target will be pushing for constitutional reforms and social justice," ElBaradei was quoted as saying in the independent daily Al Destour.
"We have also formed a preparatory committee whose role will be setting the general guidelines on how the Egyptian Constitution can be changed, and how transparency for the upcoming elections can be reached," he added.
Participants in Tuesday's meeting included many prominent Egyptian politicians and intellectuals such as coordinator of the Egyptian Campaign Against Succession, Hassan Nafaa; El Ghad party residential candidate Ayman Nour; the former leader of Kefaya 'Enough' movement, George Ishaq, as well as a number of lawmakers and authors.
But the question left lingering was: Will ElBaradei, a Nobel Prize winner, attempt a run for president in 2011? He has been coy and has not, publicly at least, divulged his long-range strategy. Is he using his international clout to force social and political change or is he building momentum for a presidential bid against the ruling National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak?
"The meeting was not to discuss whether ElBaradei would run in elections, nor to talk about him being the 'savior' or 'the redeemer,'" Ishaq said. "It was to discuss working in the street for political reform."
ElBaradei, who was welcomed by thousands Friday upon his arrival in Cairo for the first time since leaving his IAEA post in November, previously said that he would enter the race if the constitution was amended to make it easier for independent challengers to register. That is not likely. The NDP rewrote parts of the constitution to limit the chances of opposition candidates.
Under the law, candidates must secure the official approval of 65 members of the People's Assembly, 25 members of the consultative Shura Council and 10 members of municipal councils. Others, who are nominated by their political parties, should (for at least one year) be leading members of parties that have been active for a minimum of five years before the elections. ElBarabei doesn’t meet either criteria.
Although 81-year-old Mubarak is yet to confirm whether he will seek another term, talk of succession has been gripping Egypt as the profile of his son, Gamal Mubarak, head of the NDP's policies committee, keeps rising.
Many Egyptians regard ElBaradei as the one man who could vigorously challenge the idea of succession. More than 100,000 members have joined a Facebook group support ElBaradei.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Mohamed ElBaradei. Credit: Gero Breloer / Associated Press