Monday, June 20, 2011

I hope elections are held in Egypt in September

Egypt is currently in a period of uncertainty. It would be miraculous for Egypt to attain independence with very little bloodshed and emerge with a government accountable to the people of Egypt rather than to the US White House and Congress. But until elections, we can't be sure that the United States won't make the right bribe or acquire the right embarrassing information or kill the right person so that Egypt reverts to complete colonial subordinate status as it had under Mubarak.

There is a tension. Egypt is not independent yet, but I hope we just make it to elections. Once elections are held, once it is established that the Egyptian people, through voting, are the ultimate judges of Egyptian policy, then it almost doesn't even matter who wins and when. For example, Egypt is still participating in Israel's siege on Gaza, still preventing concrete from entering that could be used to build shelter, still preventing exports that would help restore a functioning economy to Gaza.

People like Hosni Mubarak and Barack Obama would cooperate with Israel on those issues, but the people of Egypt, once they decide who rules their country are not likely to continue to tolerate it, regardless of what person takes the most votes. Once elections are held, and politicians now are concerned with reelection and potential politicians are beginning to speak to the people of the country, that is the point that Egypt will be free.

Of course, the United States and parties allied with the United States want to delay that moment, to keep the military junta in power, they say, for a few more months.

David Schenker of the Washington Institute explained [...] via e-mail today: “It’s politically difficult for a US administration to be out front promoting a delay in what hopefully will be the first free and fair Egyptian elections ever. Still, a delay would be positive, giving the liberal opposition time to organize, and essentially catch up to the Islamists.”
What if the Muslim Brotherhood is still better organized than their favorite candidates a few months after September? Well, thirty years later, a US president will say that Egypt's current dictatorship is good for the region.

Justin Webb: Do you regard President Mubarak as an authoritarian ruler?

Barack Obama: No, I tend not to use labels for folks. I haven't met him. I've spoken to him on the phone.

He has been a stalwart ally in many respects, to the United States. He has sustained peace with Israel, which is a very difficult thing to do in that region.

But he has never resorted to, you know, unnecessary demagoging of the issue, and has tried to maintain that relationship. So I think he has been a force for stability. And good in the region. Obviously, there have been criticisms of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt.

The United States is a colonial power, and when a colonial power asks to delay elections, after supporting Hosni Mubarak as a dictator for thirty years, it has no credibility.

The United States still has leverage over Egypt's dictatorship and it is working very hard to prevent Egypt from emerging as independent. What works in favor of elections is that I do not detect any party or faction in Egypt that believes it is good for the United States to set Egyptian policy, or to freeze out of politics organizations that could be hostile to Israel.

The United States has no philosophical or ideological argument for its positions that is persuasive in Egypt. All it has is money and ties built with the outgoing colonial dicatorship. The lesson of the last decade in the Middle East is that money alone is of declining value in producing policy outcomes. Because of this, I'm still optimistic that we will see elections in September. I could be wrong and I hope I am not.

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