EL-MANSOURA: As part of his campaign for political reform, National Coalition for Change leader Mohamed ElBaradei visited the Delta city of El-Mansoura Friday.
After performing Friday prayer at a mosque, ElBaradei, together with between 500 and 600 supporters, onlookers and journalists walked through a street in a procession which quickly turned into a demonstration.
ElBaradei had begun his visit earlier at the National Institute for Kidney Illnesses where he met the Institute’s founder and director, Dr Mohamed Ghoneim. Outside the Institute, members of the Coalition and political opposition figures such as Mohamed Abdel Qoddous and Hassan Nafaa demanded to be let into the Institute but were refused entry by the Institute’s security.
Only ElBaradei, together with his brother Ali and former Kefaya leader George Ishaq – now a member of the new Coalition – were eventually admitted.
Some 30-40 ElBaradei supporters – some wearing signature white T-shirts bearing the former IAEA chief’s glasses and moustache – gathered outside the Institute.
Another member, journalist Hamdy Qandil, told journalists that the point of the visit was to make contact with El-Mansoura’s young people, “because change depends on young people .
Qandil added that his presence was not a definitive indicator that he supported ElBaradei for presidency, “because ElBaradei himself has not announced that he wants to stand for presidency , adding, “I’m with change, and ElBaradei is one of the most important symbols of change .
A member named Ashraf Wagdy, a bookstore owner who was last week arrested and detained for 24 hours before being released without charge, explained the circumstances of his arrest, which he described as trumped up.
“The police came to the bookstore and took 65 CDs of music by Om Kolthoum, Marcel Khalife and some classical titles, then arrested me, Wagdy said.
“We told the public prosecutor that the arrest had nothing to do with the CDs and that it was connected with my involvement with the National Coalition .
ElBaradei, who returned to Cairo in February after retiring from his post as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency last month released a statement calling for seven key democratic reforms ahead of the 2010 and 2011 parliamentary and presidential elections.
ElBaradei has said that he will not run for the presidency unless Constitutional articles governing who may run are amended – a point which ElBaradei supporter Hisham Abdallah told Daily News Egypt demonstrates that, “he wants change, not the presidency .
“Even if he doesn’t nominate himself it’s enough that he’s demanding change.
Abdallah, a pharmaceutical sales manager, described ElBaradei as “the right man for the state we’re currently in .
“He’s a man who can take us forward to the 21st century out of the military rule we’ve been under for the past 50 years. We’re not used to anything except, ‘if you take the seat of power you sit on it forever’.
Abdallah does not regard the fact that ElBaradei has lived abroad for the past 30 years as undermining his suitability for the presidency of Egypt, explaining that “it’s not a weak point at all. It’s better because he’s the product of genuine democratic values.
A National Front member told Daily News Egypt that the original plan had been that ElBaradei would visit Wagdy’s bookstore, but the crowd stopped in El-Gomhoreyya Street where ElBaradei sought refuge from the throng in a building while National Coalition members linked arms to form a corridor allowing ElBaradei to get into his waiting car.
“I love ElBaradei, American University in Cairo student Jaida Gamal told Daily News Egypt after ElBaradei had left. “We came here to say that we support him and that we want change.
“The Constitution is made for the sake of our president not for our sake. So we want change, we want it for our benefit. He’s a tool for change. If he wants to be our president we accept him and we nominate him .