Congress and human-rights groups have been urging Obama’s administration to force Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to relax regulations and restrictions regarding the country’s political system before the presidential elections slated for 2011.
The Wall Street Journal however notes that the White House has declined in disclosing whether Obama who is scheduled to meet the 82-year old Mubarak will in fact discuss the topic and call on Mubarak to relax the hold during the opening session of the Arab-Israeli peace or sideline the issue.
Mubarak has been in power in Egypt for the past 29 years, where he has imposed the harsh emergency law during the whole of his reign intimidating political opposition and oppressing those who dare question his rule.
Now that he is aging and with controversial health issues the US has qualms as to whom his successor will be. With the upcoming presidential elections skeptism surround Egypt’s future and those in Washington argue that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to make sure Egypt’s upcoming vote will be free and fair underscoring that there may be a bequeathing of power stressing that it would be hazardous. The article stresses that;
“Many Middle East analysts believe Mr. Mubarak is preparing to pass power to his 47-year-old son, Gamal Mubarak, in a move that critics say would imperil democratic development in a key Arab state”.
If elections result in instability in Egypt , a U.S. ally that long has served as a linchpin for Washington ‘s Middle East policies, it could cause headaches for Washington .
The mere fact that President Mubarak’s son is accompanying him to Washington raises eyebrows however, according to an official source, Mubarak junior will not be participating in any formal meetings connected with the peace process.
Observers note that if in fact Egypt ‘s elections result in instability, Egypt which is a U.S. ally and a key player for Washington ‘s Middle East policies, it could be a nuisance for Washington And the Obama administration could come under criticism in the Middle East if it is seen as helping extend the Mubarak family’s hold on power.
Robert Kagan, a security analyst at Washington ‘s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace questions the US stance, wondering if the U.S. will sit back and wait asserting that they are living on borrowed time with Mubarak.
President George W. Bush’s administration often butted heads with Cairo as the U.S. aggressively promoted democracy in the Middle East after the 2003 invasion of Iraq . Mr. Mubarak didn’t visit Washington during Mr. Bush’s second term, in what many U.S. officials believe was a protest against U.S. calls for political change in Egypt .
Mr. Obama has been less outspoken in calling for political openness across the Mideast . In the case of Egypt , the State Department has reduced funding targeted solely at democracy promotion. It also agreed last year to Cairo ‘s demands that the Egyptian government decide which local groups qualify as nongovernmental organizations and can receive foreign aid.
Egyptian activists say the U.S. position has allowed Mr. Mubarak’s government to further consolidate control over the country’s political process and starve Egypt ‘s civil society of funds.
According to reports this has resulted in several NGOs considered illegal by the Egyptian regime being denied funds, from the United States , and Europe .
The Obama administration however, argues alleging that the U.S. hasn’t reduced its focus on human rights in Egypt maintaining that the State Department asserts it has regularly raised the issues of democracy and political change with Egypt .
Furthermore, the State Department has also expressed concerns about the transparency and integrity of the elections held in Egypt .
Karim Haggag, a spokesman for Egypt’s embassy in Washington, argues however that Cairo is in fact working to promote free and fair elections stressing that,
“Egypt’s electoral law has ample safeguards for a free and fair election,” he said. “President Mubarak has consistently called for elections in Egypt to be free and fair.”
Nevertheless the State Department’s official on Middle East democracy programs openly commented about alleged fraud and voter exclusion evident in this year’s mid term shura elections held last June
“I’ll be frank – we are concerned by what we’ve seen so far,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes. “Egyptian citizens alone should decide who will run in, and ultimately win, Egypt ‘s elections.”
Apparently A numbers of U.S. lawmakers doubt the authenticity of the efforts and are pressuring the administration to do more. As a result the Senate is contemplating a non-binding decree that would seek to make a dialogue on democracy and human rights a formal part of bilateral relations between Egypt and the U.S. The procedure will also bound Egypt to apply the 30 year emergency law only to cases concerning terrorism and drug trafficking
With the approaching elections U.S. based organizations, including the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, have written to Mubarak requesting permission to supervise over next year’s presidential election. Haggag however believes this will be denied
According to Middle East experts Mubarak’s ruling regime may be confronting a stiff political challenge next year if Egypt ‘s political regulations were in fact relaxed
The recent appearance of former IAEA chief Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei onto the political scene has opened discussion and his recent political alliance with Egypt’s most popular and effective opposition the Muslim Brotherhood and their call for political reform and constitutional amendments has captured world wide attention.