- November 22, 2011
Don’t Postpone Egypt’s Elections
When deadly clashes broke out in Tahrir Square on Saturday, it was possible to see two competing narratives, both based on a fear of instability. The first was that protesters had provoked the military and were therefore the cause of the unrest. The ruling military council, in this version, was trying to maintain order under difficult circumstances. The second narrative would be that unrest and violence in the square was itself a product of nine months of sometimes woeful military mismanagement.
All the major political forces have more or less concluded that a transfer of power to civilian leadership is necessary and urgent. The irony is that if the military does what some (not all) protesters want — delay the elections — it could very well spell a continued deterioration in the country’s stability. If the military does what most protesters want — fire the prime minister and appoint a new government — it could end up imperiling what little momentum Egypt’s transition has left. A new government, with a new mandate and riding a wave of optimism, may find itself tempted to postpone elections.
With Tahrir ablaze, some have criticized my calls for holding elections on time. What I do know is that delaying elections — particularly so soon before the date — would be fraught with dangers that could make the last few days look tame by comparison. Others, including Marc Lynch, have made this argument more eloquently than I could hope to.