There has been much talk in recent days as to possible successors to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, if and when he steps down. American and European journalists and pundits have limited the scope of possibilities to those recognizable to Western observers. The first name brought up worldwide was Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Laureate. A pro-democracy dissenter for many years, ElBaradei is a recognizable figure to many in the West. However, due to his many years living abroad and current home in Vienna, Austria, he is not well known in much of Egypt. Another favorite figure of the West is Amr Moussa, former Foreign Minister and head of the Arab League.
So which leaders do the Egyptian people actually want? Al Jazeera English posted this video in their live blog today, an interview with a young protester showing his wounds and declaring that he will not leave Tahrir Square until Mubarak steps down. The most interesting part comes halfway through, when he lists three people that he thinks would be good leaders. The Al Jazeera reporter asks the young man who he wants to lead after Mubarak, and what type of government he wants to see. The protester responds, "A government of Egyptians, with the best men here." He lists three names: Mohammed al-Baltagi, Ayman Nour, and Mustashar ("Advisor") Mahmoud al-Khodairy.
These are three very interesting choices, and shine light on the nature of these demonstrations. All three are familiar names in the Egyptian opposition movement, yet are very different people. Dr. Mohammed al-Baltagi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood party and a Member of Parliament. He has been a vocal supporter of judicial reform in recent years, and has spoken out against the government's decision to bar former British MP and Palestinian activist George Galloway from entering the country.
Ayman Nour is by far the most famous figure of the three that were mentioned. He is the leader of the El Ghad ("Tomorrow") party, a liberal opposition party with a strong focus on democracy and human rights. The Egyptian government officially recognized El Ghad in 2004. Nour, a Member of Parliament at the time, ran for President the next year. He was arrested in January 2005, and then released in March after international outcry and intervention from the European Union. After his release he mounted a presidential campaign that managed to garner seven percent of the vote despite the fact that the elections were widely recognized as being fraudulent. Mubarak then had him arrested again in December, and he served four years in prison before being released in 2009 due to health issues. He joined the protests two weeks ago and was injured when he was hit in the head by a rock on January 28th.
Mahmoud al-Khodairy is a judge and an attorney, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was formerly the vice president of the Egyptian Court of Appeals. Al-Khodairy, referred to here as "Mustashar" (a term of respect meaning "advisor"), was in support of the Muslim Brotherhood's decision to withdraw from the 2010 elections in protest of the ruling National Democratic Party's rigging of election results.
El Ghad and the Muslim Brotherhood would seem to be diametrically opposed, yet this protester would like to see both groups' ideas expressed. After he shows the camera his burns and bruises, he vows not to leave Tahrir Square until he and his peers can decide the future of their country themselves.