Egyptian Elections: Five reasons to stick with the process as uncertainty follows recent vote

Political parties with clear Islamic identities appear to be gaining a majority in preliminary results from Egypt’s first round of parliamentary elections: the Muslim Brotherhood backed Freedom and Justice Party has around 40% of the vote and a further 25% went to the more extreme Salafi, An-Nour party. While the Brotherhood and the FJP have pledged to respect democratic principles and the rights of other Egyptians, the Salafis are explicitly hostile to the rights of women and minorities and to freedom of expression.

These parties believe that the law of God is superior to that of men and that they are in unique possession of the authoritative interpretation of the divine will. Their apparent strength is bad news for human rights in Egypt, but it should focus the minds of those who wish to see Egypt’s democratic transition move forward.

Here are five reasons not to give up on Egypt’s democratic transition at the first hurdle:

 

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What’s Next for Egypt: “Mubarakism Without Mubarak”?

Mubarak has stepped down. But the question remains of whether this will change anything.

This is a critical moment for the U.S. government to make clear its intention to support the Egyptian people—not the next despot.

President Obama should now make it clear that the U.S. government will not support despotism—and take steps to bolster democratic reform for the Egyptian people.

Just two days ago in the U.S., "Mubarakism without Mubarak" is what one witness said we needed at a Congressional hearing on developments in Egypt. This will not stand.

The United States is not the arbiter of power in Egypt. It cannot appoint and dismiss presidents at its will, nor write and rewrite Egyptian laws. These powers belong to the Egyptian people.

However, the Mubarak regime has relied on U.S. assistance to deny the Egyptian people basic rights and freedoms again and again. If the U.S. government continues the status quo, it will be endorsing the same despotism that has brought us to this point of crisis.

Vice President Omer Suleiman has made disturbing remarks inferring that Egyptians are not "ready" for democracy, giving protesters the choice between dialogue, controlled by him, or "a coup." President Mubarak has set up a committee for constitutional reform that is dominated by veteran repressors.

If the U.S. backs these leaders and policies, we won't see change but continued repression. Now is the moment to urge President Obama to push back against Mubarak and Suleiman's tactics of continued repression.

Human Rights First urged Congressional leaders to take up many of the human rights concerns in hearings this week. When the "Made in the USA" tear gas was raised, the response was that the policy was "under constant review," but there was not enough focus on the need for the U.S. government to promote respect for human rights in Egypt.

Our leadership must stand with the Egyptian people, and not just the next despot. That's what the U.S. community needs to demand, right now. Join me in asking President Obama to take the necessary steps.

Get This to Tahrir Square

There comes a time in every society for the people to rise to a station to which the laws of nature intended them. This elevated station is based on the following obvious truths, that we are all equal under the law, that as humans we have certain rights that are incorporated into our person. Among these are the right to life, the right to be free from restriction of movement, the right to speak freely and the right to pursue what ever it is that we believe will add to our happiness. We here and now affirm that because of these rights governments derive their permission to govern from the people and that governments are created by people to protect these rights. When any form of government acts against these rights, it is the privilege of the people to change its government to a new government that affirms its commitment to preserving these basic rights.

 

For practical reasons government that satisfies their responsibility should not be changed for ephemeral reasons. However, it is up to the people to decide what reasons are weighty enough to warrant change. As our history has shown us, people are more apt to tolerate suffering as long as the suffering is not too great. We are more apt to go on suffering rather than change the things which we have become accustomed to. But when we suffer many abuses and face a callus disregard of our rights, all designed to subjugate us under dictatorship, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off that government and make provision for a new government that is committed to protecting our freedoms and liberties.

 

The present leader of our country has many times violated our rights.  He has worked his way to what he is now, an absolute despot over us. We have awakened to the realization that we live under tyranny. With this awakening we have also realized that it is time for us to change our current system of government and what we want is a political system based on genuine democracy and social justice.

 

To this end we demand:

The resignation of the current president

Free and fair elections involving all Egyptian people be held expeditiously

That there be judicial oversight of the whole election process

That local and international groups be brought in to monitor the elections

That all Egyptians must be free to run for and win any office without interference

That there be fair and equal access to media for all candidates

That the right to vote is extended to even Egyptians living abroad

That the president’s term in office be limited to two terms

That all who hold the National ID be allowed to vote.

That all sectors of the population be free to organize and assemble

That all political detainees be released

That the government may not hinder the expression of religious belief

That the government protect religious freedom for all religions

That the government may not encumber free expression and the press

 

We, the people of Egypt, assembled here on Tahrir Square and in other cities around our nation, solemnly declare that we are free of tyranny; and to the support of this declaration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

 

 

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