WP: Delayed Democracy is the Real Threat In Egypt

WP: Delayed Democracy is the Real Threat In Egypt

 Is Egypt imploding?

A lot of people in Washington seem to think so, though they are talking about it quietly so far. Their fears are specific: that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalist parties will take power when Egypt’s first democratic elections are held later this year; and that peace with Israel — the foundation of a 30-year, American-backed order in the Middle East — is “hanging by a thread,” as Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy put it.

There is reason, of course, to worry about those scenarios. But here’s what emerged in conversations I had last week with a number of Egyptian journalists, activists and officials: The most immediate and urgent threat in Egypt is not a dramatic Islamic coup or a diplomatic rupture with the Jewish state, but prolongation of the chaotic and directionless regime the country now lives under.

Egypt exists in a strange, unpredictable netherworld between military dictatorship and liberal democracy. Since Hosni Mubark’s regime was overthrown in February, free media, political parties and civil society groups have flourished; there are daily strikes and street demonstrations; Mubarak himself is on trial. But thousands have been summarily sentenced to prison by military courts. Bloggers who criticize the army have been harassed, and a regime of “emergency law” — which officially bans most public gatherings — has been revived.

The ruling military council says that parliamentary elections will be held beginning in late November. But it has yet to specify exact dates, the form representation will take, the electoral districts that will be used or what duties the new parliament will have — other than choosing an assembly to write a new constitution. Nor do Egyptians know when a presidential election will take place, whether it will be before or after the new constitution is completed or whether the military will seek to give itself special oversight powers in the new political order. Announcements are made, then abruptly revised or reversed, depending on whom the generals last consulted with.

Meanwhile, the economy is tanking as tourists and foreign investors keep their distance. The military recently demonstrated its economic acumen by abruptly imposing new visa requirements on foreign visitors, before just as hastily lifting them.

The generals once promised to turn over power by this month. But, at best, the parliamentary elections will be completed at the end of February. The presidential election, which would finally end military rule, could come in nine months, some analysts predict; others say it could be put off 18 months while delegates dicker over the new constitution.

Read the rest of the article in the Washington Post


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