Ever since the end of his term as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reformists have been waiting for Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei to assert himself as a figure for change in Egypt. That moment seems finally to be coming.
Though something of a late-comer to the protest movement, ElBaradei has now been tapped to be the chief spokesman and negotiator for the nation’s opposition, and has been supported not just by his predictable reformist allies, but the Muslim Brotherhood as well.
Nearly a week before the protests had fully come together, ElBaradei was warning of the possibility but declining to support Tunisia-style protests, and even when the protests began in earnest he declined to take part until Friday, when he was quickly placed under house arrest.
Somehow this seems to have brushed aside all of the popular annoyance at ElBaradei’s previous reticence about a revolt and given him the gravitas to speak for the entire, broad-based protest movement.
ElBaradei could be extremely valuable to the protesters in this position, with his existing international reputation. Perhaps the even more interesting question is if this role will enable ElBaradei to catapult himself into the frontrunner position for a new leader, if Egypt ends up with free elections.