Some Egyptians are skeptical:
ElBaradei, 68, began overt opposition to Mubarak on his return to Egypt in February 2010 and won a widespread following among the young and the middle classes.
But the Egyptian authorities harassed his supporters and ElBaradei lost much credibility through his long absences abroad. The official media tried to ridicule him, saying he knew nothing about Egypt and had no political experience.
Some elements of the government’s campaign appear to have stuck. “ElBaradei won’t do. He doesn’t have the experience here and he’s a little weak,” said Khaled Ezzat, 34, an information technology engineer who had joined the evening vigil in Tahrir Square.
Omar Mahdi, a sales manager, said: “I’m not convinced by ElBaradei, even as a transitional figure, he hasn’t really been present in the country.”
Some of the protesters objected to ElBaradei on the grounds that he was too close to the United States, despite the frictions between him and the U.S. administration over the Iranian and Israeli nuclear programs when he was head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog body.
“ElBaradei’s positions toward other Arab countries, and toward Iran and North Korea, were not neutral… So I don’t find him very acceptable,” said Walid Abdel-Mit’aal, 36, who works for a public sector company.
“He would follow Mubarak in the same policies and would take U.S. aid,” he added, reflecting an anti-American strand which was largely absent in the first four days of protests.
ElBaradei’s cosmopolitanism — he lived abroad for years and speaks fluent English — may be an advantage among some Egyptians but it is also a source of suspicion among others.
The protesters in Tahrir Square suggested several alternatives to ElBaradei as transitional leader, including Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, a popular former foreign minister, the president of the constitutional court or the president of the supreme administrative court.
Others said they were open-minded and what mattered was changing the constitution to ensure that no one man clings to power as long as Mubarak, who took office in 1981.
“ElBaradei is a very acceptable option because he will not stay,” said Islam Ashraf, 24, a quality operations coordinator. “But we’re not really interested in faces. What matters to us is having another system,” he said.