The Potential for Subverting Democracy in Egypt

The Obama administration has lacked consistency in terms of its public statements regarding the uprising in Egypt. At first, the administration declared that the regime is “stable” and then a week ago referred to Mubarak as a “patriot,” only to change course and demand a “transition” and at the end a “quick transition.”  The administration never once demanded his resignation, even though the masses willed it and even though the death toll climbed fast thereby further chipping away at Mubarak’s legitimacy. But to be fair, Obama’s later criticisms were much more than Bush would have offered and probably McCain as well. The issue now is whether democracy can be forged in this post-revolutionary environment. Officially, the military is the main state power until elections. Unofficially, popular will in Egypt has become a potent force. In this uncertain climate, two issues seem to haunt the day. How much power will the military cede in the next elections, presumably in September? The military has declared that it will maintain power in the interim and vest it back to civil authority after the elections, but I fear that what may come to be will resemble the Turkish democracy that was controlled until recently by the military; the military overthrew democratic governments whenever those governments acted in contradiction to views and principles espoused by the military. The other concern I have is the military or other domestic centers of power and especially foreign entities subverting or “directing” the elections to produce an outcome favorable not to the will of the people but to themselves. For instance, the Obama administration has already hinted at this possibility:  “Administration officials agreed that the $250 million in economic aid was a pittance compared with the $1.3 billion in annual military aid, and the White House and the State Department were already discussing setting aside new funds to bolster the rise of secular political parties.”

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