EGYPT: ElBaradei is reaching out to all Egyptians
Mohamed ElBaradei is shaking hands and making the rounds. The U.N. nuclear agency's former chief, who opposition parties are urging to run for president, has been meeting with politicians, activists, filmmakers and religious leaders in hopes of pressuring the government to pass political reforms.
Over the last week, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was greeted by hundreds of worshipers at Al Hussein mosque in the heart of old Cairo and was questioned by Coptic Christian intellectuals and writers at his home near the pyramids. The gathering was described as a chance for religious minorities to gauge the support they would receive from ElBaradei's National Front for Change.
"This meeting comes as part of ElBaradei's efforts to talk with representatives of various political and religious orientations and listen to their vision on the country's future," said Coptic journalist Karima Kamal. "ElBaradei believes that Egypt needs to retain its status as a religiously moderate country in the Middle East."
Coptic politician Amin Iskandar said: "All the attendants agreed that real citizenship is the only solution for Copts and other minorities, and that a new constitution guaranteeing complete and full citizenship for all Egyptians is a must."
ElBaradei is seeking to use his renown to open Egypt's political climate and end the domination of the ruling National Democratic Party. He is calling for widespread reforms and has announced that he will run in the 2011 presidential elections if the constitution is amended to make it easier for independent candidates to get on the ballot.
Right now, ElBaradei is ineligible to run. According to the Egyptian constitution, a presidential nominee should be the head of a political party that has existed for at least five years before the elections. He also doesn't qualify as an independent candidate, who would need the signatures of 250 members of the Egyptian higher and lower parliaments (the Shura Council and People's Assembly, respectively) and local councils. The NDP controls those bodies, making it nearly impossible for ElBaradei to get their approval.
ElBaradei has also spoken with prominent movie stars and directors, including actor Khaled Aboul Naga and actress Basma, both of whom signed the Front's petition to amend the constitution. "We came to talk about our common dream of a positive change in Egypt and transmit the current cultural scene in the country to Mr. ElBaradei," said TV and movie director Magdi Ahmed Ali, who met with ElBaradei on Sunday.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: A man shows his support for Mohamed ElBaradei at Cairo International Airport last month. Credit: Khaled Desokuy / AFP / Getty Images