May 10, 2005
MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS
FROM: GARY SCHMITT
SUBJECT: Half Measures in Egypt
According to press reports, Egypts parliament is likely to pass a constitutional amendment today that would allow opposition figures to run for president. This apparent democratic breakthrough, however, is undermined by the amendments stipulation that to be placed on a presidential ballot a candidate would need the approval of 300 members from various elected Egyptian government bodies bodies now under the control of the sitting president, Hosni Mubarak.
The decision by Egypt to take this half measure is the result of pressure put on President Mubarak by President Bush and Secretary of State Rice. But it is only a half measure, and one that will lead to even more frustration and political instability in Egypt if it remains so. Administration officials and members of Congress would do well to send President Mubarak and his government a signal that American foreign aid (currently about $2 billion/year) is contingent on their doing more to open up the Egyptian political process.
Some are concerned
that a truly open election will encourage the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood.
We agree that is a concern. But, unless we expect Mubarak and his son
to hold on to power indefinitely despite all the corruption, dysfunctionalism,
and anger his rule engenders in Egypt itself this is a risk supporters
of democracy must take. And this risk is more manageable now in the context
of progress toward democracy rather than later, in the context of increased
popular resentment and civic frustration.