Carnegie Endowment report says Egypt is ready for democracy

Daily News Egypt
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CAIRO: With an inevitable political turnover facing Egypt’s incumbent regime, the time may be ripe for a new wave of democratization and political liberalization, claim three experts from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In a policy paper published on July 3, the three senior associates, Michele Dunne, Amr Hamzawy, and Nathan J. Brown, argue that Egypt is uniquely poised to begin a process of political transformation – from a closed, authoritarian regime to a more open, pluralistic democracy.

The paper claims that, with the likely handover of power in the near future from current Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to his son, Gamal Mubarak, domestic reformers may seize the opportunity of the political realignment to push for liberalizations and greater political participation.

“In highly centralized regimes like Egypt’s a transition in leadership is often accompanied by a reorientation and a political opening, one of the experts, Nathan Brown, told The Daily Star Egypt in an email interview. “Of course, such an opening is often short-term and tactical, but that is all the more reason to make efforts to ensure that, if it occurs, it be given firmer institutional expression.

Moreover, one of the other co-authors, Michele Dunne added that “the new generation of leaders – including [Mubarak’s] National Democratic Party – seem to be interested in improved governance and may be more open to political reform than their predecessors.

However, the paper also claims that the liberalization process is far from a guarantee. In the last two years, the Mubarak regime has reversed many of the positive developments that marked the earlier part of the decade, cracking down on political opposition and implementing a number of legal reforms and constitutional amendments that encroach on citizens’ civil liberties.

In addition, calls for change from countries like the United States have been largely abandoned since 2006, a result of security crises in countries like Iraq and Lebanon that have taken the United States’ attention away from its democratization initiative in Egypt. The US government also expressed misgivings over the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections.

The paper concludes with a call for the United States to begin exerting pressure on the Mubarak regime once again by allying itself with domestic opposition movements and couching its calls for reform in the demands of Egyptian civil society.

It specifically mentions four areas on which the United States ought to focus its efforts – the creation of an electoral supervision body, the imposition of presidential term limits, the increased participation of opposition parties, and the protection of human rights.

The experts also add that the US is wrong to imagine that democracy in Egypt will bring about the rise of a hostile Islamic regime led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Democratization “cannot be done without incorporating rather than quashing Egypt’s most powerful opposition movement claims the report.

Ultimately, though, the researchers conclude that it is up to the Egyptian people to bring about the necessary reform.

“Internal pressure for change is indispensable; without this, nothing will happen said Dunne. “If there is sustained pressure for change from Egyptian society, the United States and other members of the international community will pay attention and add their support to a certain extent. But clearly international players become distracted by other crises and cannot be relied upon to keep up the momentum, so it is primarily up to Egyptians.

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