Egyptian voters want change, former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who may run in a presidential election next year, told supporters on Friday.
Up to 1,500 supporters greeted ElBaradei as he emerged from al Nour mosque in Mansoura, a provincial capital in the Nile Delta, after midday prayers, on his first public appearance outside Cairo since he returned to Egypt in February.
Many were singing Egypt's national anthem. Others chanted: "ElBaradei, say it strongly, Egypt wants democracy" and "Mansoura is with you".
The appearance by the 67-year-old ElBaradei, who has said he may run in the presidential election due in 2011, may indicate he plans more such visits to garner support across the country.
"What we saw today is the writing on the wall: the average Egyptian is out on the street calling for change, and this destroys the myth that this movement is by the elite or is just a virtual one on the Internet," ElBaradei told Reuters.
AbdulRahman Yusuf, who runs a Facebook group called "ElBaradei for Presidency of Egypt 2011", said: The people's reaction sends a very strong message and this turnout is unprecedented".
Yusef had said earlier that the group would work in the streets and over the Internet to build backing for ElBaradei.
ElBaradei returned to Egypt after 12 years as head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), energising the country's political scene after decades of autocratic rule under President Hosni Mubarak.
Chances for change remote
Last Friday, he made his first public appearance in Cairo at a mosque in the city's historic Islamic district.
Prior to the visit he had not made a public appearance, instead hosting opposition leaders and academics and giving media interviews at his house on Cairo's outskirts.
Mubarak, 81, who returned from Germany on March 27 after gallbladder surgery, has not said whether he plans to run for a sixth six-year term in the election.
If he does not, many Egyptians believe he will try to hand power to his son Gamal. Both father and son deny such plans.
ElBaradei has said he would consider a presidential bid if certain demands are met, including constitutional changes to limit power, judicial supervision of the vote and equal media coverage of all candidates.
Political analysts say the chances of securing such changes by next year are remote, while any presidential bid faces a huge challenge in the most populous Arab country as rules make it almost impossible for anyone to succeed without the backing of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, which dominates parliament.
Egypt experimented with its first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005 that it touted as a process of democratisation, but which critics panned as a sham.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 02 Nisan 2010, 20:44