CAIRO: Members of Egypt’s opposition refuted the regime’s justification that speeding up democratic reform may lead to radical elements seizing control.
As President Hosni Mubarak met with American counterpart Barack Obama in Washington Tuesday, he stressed that he has been following through with a plan for political reform.
His spokesman Suleiman Awad said in Washington after the two leaders met, “If Egypt falls down, many other countries will be destabilized. We know that moving too fast might give control to radicals.
Awad was alluding to the Muslim Brotherhood, considered to be Egypt’s largest opposition group despite the fact that it is not officially recognized as a political party. Its MPs run as independents in elections and won around a fifth of the seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections.
Hussein Ibrahim, head of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the People’s Assembly, told Daily News Egypt that this type of decision-making over the pace of democratic reform was not needed and unrequested.
“The Egyptian people know where their interests lie, and no one should present himself as their guardian. Democracy cannot be doled out drop by drop and to say otherwise is false. No one should appoint themselves custodians of the Egyptian people, he said.
Relations have improved between Egypt and the incumbent US administration, a far cry from the days of the George Bush administration, when tension ruled and disputes were common.
“Relations between us and the United States are very good relations and strategic relations, Mubarak said, “And despite some of the hoops that we had with previous administrations, this did not change the nature of our bilateral relations.
The US was also on the defensive regarding the recent warming of relations again with Egypt, which is often criticized for its human rights record.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stressed that such issues were discussed between Mubarak and Obama.
“I would not agree with the premise that we have somehow swept under the rug, in either this relationship or in relationships with other countries, the notion of human rights or greater democracy in the world, he said.
Awad said, “We have no inhibitions. We don’t have reason to shy away from discussing such issues related to the democratization process.
Waheed Al-Aqsari, head of the Arab Socialist Party, told Daily News Egypt, “Democracy in Egypt needs to be resuscitated and huge reform in politics is needed and that won’t happen if the ballot boxes remain under control of the National Democratic Party.
“We are only asking for initial steps in the right direction, which is yet to happen, he added, “The president made promises in his last election campaign, have any of them be fulfilled? No, we want real reforms and real democracy.
Mubarak himself had dismissed the MB as a group that did not concern him in an interview with CBS, insisting that as long as they veered clear of terrorism, they were not a threat.
Ibrahim responded, “The Brotherhood have nothing to do with terrorism, they are an integral part of the street, and make up 20 percent of parliament. No court has convicted any Brotherhood member of terrorism. We don’t bet on anyone except the Egyptian people, not the US.