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Ezzeldin: El Baradei can be the man of the moment, the leader of a revolution, or a fence sitter

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DANYA NADAR (VOICEOVER), TRNN: On January 30, Egyptians rallied for the sixth day in a row, defying a 4 p.m. curfew and streaming into Midan Tahrir, Liberation Square, and demanded for Mubarak to step down.

HANNAH ALLAM, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: It’s really hard to tell the factions apart because everyone at this point is marching together. You could see a man in a cropped Jellabiya and a big beard and a big zabiba, the prayer mark, marching alongside a young leftist woman with big curly hair and a tanktop on. So it’s quite extraordinary to see these families. You see families bringing their children out, everyone everywhere taking souvenir photos with the tanks and giving the thumbs-up to the military, flashing the peace sign. People have overturned crates and are standing on them to sort of speak to crowds and sort of all these sort of impromptu speakers bureaus dotted throughout Tahrir Square. It is sort of a carnival-like atmosphere, except, you know, there’s also, I guess, an undercurrent of fear in it, too, because, I mean, just you can still smell the burning in the air from the ruling National Democratic Party’s headquarters, which is right there; you can still see tanks outside the National Museum, where two mummies were destroyed earlier this week. So–and people are jubilant and happy and excited, but also quite nervous. As the situation’s growing more dire in terms of lack of food and basic services, people are growing antsier, and they seem to be more preoccupied with where to find their next meal than joining the crowds in Tahrir to chant and have this show of force against their regime. It feels at this moment like the regime is living on borrowed time. It does feel very much like it’s in its sort of last stretch, 30 years. And I can’t imagine that these protesters would be pacified by anything less than his removal–no reshuffling, no last-ditch price slashing and new economic initiatives that he and his government announced tonight, no appointment of a vice president after 30 years with no second in command. I just don’t think any of these sort of desperate-looking measures are going to have an effect.

NADAR: Later in the evening, protesters were joined by Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate and former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who has become a leading figure in the opposition movement. While most of the crowd greeted ElBaradei enthusiastically, some Egyptians questioned his role.

MOHAMMED EZZELDIN, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST: Mohamed ElBaradei appeared to the forefront of the Egyptian politics since long time. Mohamed ElBaradei appeared as a neutral figure and a devoted technocrat. He is successful in maintaining a sort of balance in the world of politics. And his reputation at that time was stemming from his ability to confront, for instance, some American allegations in the UN and basically in Security Council before the occupation of Iraq. In 2009, December, basically, in a series of interviews with newspaper, Mohamed ElBaradei showed his intention to–and he said he might nominate himself as a candidate for presidency who can enjoy a lot of consensus between the political parties and political opposition groups in Egypt. At that time, Hamidra became a figure of heated discussion in the Egyptian newspaper between the opposition parties, opposition movement, and on the other hand the supporters and opponents of regime. And he didn’t come from ideological or a certain political background. He didn’t belong to a certain political party. But in that time, Egyptian social and political movement was looking for a leader. So there was a question: is Mohamed ElBaradei is the coming leader or the appropriate leader for opposition in Egypt, who can transform the country from dictatorship, from authoritarian rule to a democratic one? Since May 2010 till July 2010, Mohamed ElBaradei conducted a number of discussions, a number of interviews in the TV, a number of meetings with political activists, with Muslim Brotherhood, with leftist groups, with–there was other opposition parties, liberal parties in Egypt, and he just opened a big debate about his presidency. Mohamed ElBaradei came to the forefront of the political scene while Egypt was facing two main problems. First problem was the leaders of opposition parties and Muslim Brotherhood talking–are using a little bit elitist, this course, [sic] which is a little bit separated, and detach it from the daily needs and daily demands of the people in the streets. So this was the first problem. Second problem was a disengagement between the social movement, basically, the worker and business strikes, and the political movements, the political parties, and the Muslim Brotherhood. So these two problems was the main challenges for ElBaradei in June and July. And, unfortunately, ElBaradei, since July, was completely consumed in his international agenda, being outside Egypt and being involved within a number of talks, a number of events outside the country. And this made a lot of people, basically the youth activists, very disappointed about him. In November, when the police and the state used brutal violence against people who went to vote in the parliamentary elections, Mohamed ElBaradei was in Brazil, and he just sees to send a short message about the condemnation of the regime from Brazil through Twitter and Facebook. So the only channel which people used to know Mohamed ElBaradei, basically, since July 2010, was YouTube and his speeches. I would say the guy have many positive points in his caliber, in his career, and many things that would nominate himself to entitle the position of leading the–or Egyptian opposition. [sic] First, he’s not corrupt. Second, he knows well how to govern administratively, okay, from his background at the UN. And he seems like a figure of consensus. He is a little bit liberal. He belongs to a liberal democratic background, secular background. But he is able to gather all these people. The Muslim Brotherhood first will condemn in a very shy way, not straightforwardly. And then they participated with him in two demonstration, two big demonstration, and said, we are going to coordinate with him, and he seems a man that we can–can be the face of the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood. So [inaudible] sort of negotiation and coordination and talks between the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed ElBaradei, which is something good. Mohamed ElBaradei also has an idea about moderate Islam, about the civil Islamic parties in Morocco and in Turkey in specific, and he was endorsing and trying to push this forward to the talks with the Muslim Brotherhood, basically with the parliamentary bloc in the previous elections. Now the scene in Egypt, that Muslim Brotherhood are not in the front, are not leading the demonstration, but still one of the–even one of the most important, if not the most important political power, organized power, in the political scene. He was received in Tahrir Square in a good way, and people welcomed him, and he gave a speech. But some people–I don’t know what the percentage, but some people [inaudible] they don’t welcome him and they feel that he is elitist and feel that he is not from these people. Next days in Egypt is going to impose real challenges on whoever come to lead the oppositions. First, the negotiation about the future role of the army, of the military institutions, how the army is going to–is the army going to enjoy a veto power or a blocking card in the Egyptian politics? How far he is going to negotiate and going to impose the demands, the popular demands on the army leaders in the future? And how much concessions he’s going to give? He has to know, understand well, that the bourgeoisie democracy he’s talking about since he came to Egypt will not fit the new scene, will not fit the new status quo, the balance of power, because there is many factors that led to this moment, and a long history of neoliberal and privatization economic policy in Egypt led to the highest rate of poverty of the Egyptian–among the Egyptian people and the uneven development between the countryside and the cities, the problem of the south of the–of upper Egypt, the problem of peasants, a lot of problems. He has to know that there must be a radical change coming to Egypt. I am actually concerned about not to sit on this moment, not to just stopping on these limits, on just the parliamentary elections, on free votes, which is important, but only we have other battles, we have other concerns. Most of the people know about ElBaradei. Who else could be–I don’t think Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups, they don’t have the courage and the ability and the capacity to nominate somebody. Maybe some people from Nasser’s pan-Arabist or Nasser’s groups, maybe some are from Kefaya Movement, maybe somebody who have civil Islamic background. ElBaradei can be the man of the moment, okay, can be the leader of a revolution, and can be a fence-sitter.

NADAR: The Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups have nominated him to negotiate on their behalf with the regime. Mubarak has yet to indicate that he is willing to participate in such negotiations. This is Danya Nadar for The Real News Network.

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