CAIRO: Democracy activists are accusing the United States government of being too yielding in their response to the People’s Assembly vote to delay Egypt’s municipal elections for two years.
In a statement this week from the U.S. State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack expressed America’s displeasure with the postponement of any election, adding that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice would address the issue with the Egyptian government during her visit next week.
President Hosni Mubarak issued a decree last week suggesting the postponement of the municipal election, proposing a new law that would give local governments more power. The bill passed by Parliament’s Upper House Sunday and was approved Tuesday night by the Lower House.
“The minute they stand back and let elections unfold naturally, they will see that Islam will prevail in governments like Iraq, just as it has in Egypt and Palestine and will continue to even more, says Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide, Mahdi Akef. “The American government does not have a responsibility to dictate the political business of the Arab world and any interference is for their own benefit.
Most recently, the overwhelming win of Hamas in Palestine’s first parliamentary election in a decade fortified the growing power of Islamists in the region. Political scientists affirm, however, that such gains have served as a wake up call to Western governments like the United States looking to promote their ideologies of democracy and free speech. Many fear that the rising power of Islamists equates to decreasing human liberties. The Muslim Brotherhood has adamantly denied this.
“Dormant success has manifested itself, says Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam Al-Arian. “People are convinced with our case to build development and resources on Islamic land. This is the main issue we want, Islamic sharia in all aspects in life. Sharia is not just Penalty Law, it is a way of life: equality, liberty, development; all these values are Islamic values.
The United States has been an outspoken critic throughout Egypt’s newly reformed electoral process. The Bush Administration released highly reproachful statements following violent outbreaks during protests and at polling stations on Election Day. Moreover, America sharply questioned Egypt’s democratic process following the detainment of El-Ghad party leader Ayman Nour last December on charges that he forged signatures to officially establish his party.
“If you look at the amount of time the State Department and Condoleeza Rice dedicate to Ayman Nour, it’s way out of sync with the other injustices that go on in Egypt, notes Samer Shehata, professor of politics at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. “Ayman Nour represents a liberal, secular, pro-West, free market, gradualist reformer, and that’s the kind of future that they would love to have in the Middle East.
Despite the effort dedicated by the Bush Administration to promote a democratic agenda in the region, over the past year, Islamists have made major gains from Indonesia to Morocco. Analysts question whether it is in fact that push for democracy that unexpectedly opened the door for Islamists who had for years been oppressed.
Members of the Bush Administration who have traveled to the region in recent months have, for one reason or another, steered clear of any dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood. During her last visit to Cairo in June 2005, Rice met with a number of opposition leaders, including Nour. Members of the Kefaya movement were invited but refused to attend, insisting America has no business in Egyptian politics. Rice did not extend an invitation to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming they do not associate with outlawed political parties.
“The Americans and the Egyptian government are both fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood, of course, insists George Ishaq, one of the leaders of the Kefaya movement. “They know that if they hold the municipal election, the Muslim Brotherhood will collect all the votes.