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Mohamed ElBaradei can say he’s not running for president in Egypt. But with everything he does resembling calculated campaign moves, it’s getting harder and harder to believe him.
This weekend, hundreds of his supporters came out to see ElBaradei after Friday prayers at the famous Hussein Mosque, chanting, “Long live Egypt!” as he walked to his car. Last week, ElBaradei’s wife Aida gave an interview to one of the country’s leading independent newspapers, likely in a bid to enliven his image as a stodgy diplomat. Also, earlier this month the former Nobel laureate announced that he will write memoirs about his tenure at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
And just yesterday, ElBaradei spoke to the Egyptian people directly for the first time, offering his message of change in a video posted to his Facebook group (a page he embraced but he did not create).
“This change will not happen unless you all participate,” said ElBaradei in the six-and-a-half minute video. “Change is not the responsibility of only one person or a group of people. It’s the responsibility of everyone in the society if they want a better future.”
ElBaradei is seeking to reform Egypt’s political system, which has become stagnate in the nearly 30 years of rule by President Hosni Mubarak.
Decades of authoritarian rule in the Arab world’s most populous country have disillusioned many Egyptians. For the majority here, daily life is a struggle with unemployment, rising prices, and a crumbling national infrastructure. Egypt’s controversial Emergency Law, in place since 1981, has facilitated countless abuses of human rights throughout the country.
Just a few reasons that so many Egyptians got excited at the prospect of change.
Of course, ElBaradei has quite a mountain to climb. Under the current laws, ElBaradei would not be eligible to run for president without both of the following: one year's experience leading a licensed Egyptian political party and 250 votes of support from the Egyptian parliament.
He has neither. And with both houses firmly controlled by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, ElBaradei will likely receive neither.
One thing ElBaradei does have is a relatively safe perch to speak from on the internet, a rare commodity for a country where political gatherings are illegal without special security permits (which, are hardly ever granted to opposition figures).
And with over 200,000 fans on his Facebook group, ElBaradei’s first video message is sure to make a splash.