One Year after Mubarak’s Departure, Egyptian Progress Slow
Washington, DC – In the year since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power on Feb. 11, 2011, Egypt’s transition to a democracy is slowly progressing against a backdrop that includes an economy teetering on the edge of collapse, violent civilian clashes with security forces and targeted prosecutions of civil society groups. Currently in Egypt, the Prime Minister, Kamal al-Ganzouri, a retread from the Mubarak era, presides over a military-appointed government, and the real power in the land, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is headed by Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s most senior military officer since 1991. “Those hold overs from the previous regime behave in much the same way as Mubarak and his minsters did,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “Egypt’s leaders continue to rail against foreign plots and imaginary ‘hidden hands’ to distract public attention from their own failures of governance. They stoke public fears of unrest to legitimize their frequent resort to repression, and they attack and undermine liberal, democratic groups within the society to immunize themselves from the transparency and accountability that representative, democratic government in Egypt would bring.” Hicks notes that despite all this, Egypt’s democratic transition is moving forward. The parliamentary elections held in recent months were generally peaceful and had a much larger participation rate than under Mubarak. The elections were also generally free of the brazen vote rigging that was prevalent under the old regime. He notes that the newly elected parliament, the vast majority of whose members have never served in office before, is beginning to act like a parliament, seeking to exercise its oversight powers over the executive. Nominations for the presidency, likely to be Egypt’s largest elections ever, will open early next month. Hicks observes, “Within a few short months, Egypt will have a democratically elected, civilian government for the first time in at least 60 years. That progress should be lauded, but it’s not enough. The U.S. government must now hold firm to its commitment to support a peaceful, democratic transition in Egypt. That means continuing to urge the military council to hand over power to an elected civilian government as soon as possible, and using all aspects of the rich bi-lateral relationship between the United States and Egypt to encourage and advance progress towards democracy and better respect for human rights.” Last month, following a trip to Cairo, Hicks issued a report – Egypt’s Transition to Democracy One Year On: Recommendations for U.S. Policy – that detailed the situation in Egypt and outlined what the U.S. government should to do to aid in the nation’s transition to democracy. The report notes that, for decades, the U.S. government supported the authoritarian rule of President Mubarak and that Egyptians paid a heavy price under his rule. For this, the United States has suffered because of its association with a repressive and corrupt regime. Hicks notes that now, a year after Mubarak’s regime crumbled, the U.S. government has a chance to repair some of that damage. For example, last year, Congress set conditions to U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt. These provide clear targets for Egypt’s new leaders to meet in such areas as freedom of association and freedom of religion. “Progress towards meeting these goals will serve U.S. and Egyptian interests,” concluded Hicks. For more information about Human Rights First’s in Egypt or to speak with Hicks, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-370-3233.