Egypt’s Transition to Democracy: A Letter From the Working Group on Egypt

Other Publications February 8
The Obama administration should commit to a true transition to democracy in Egypt and the creation of an open political system that protects civil rights and liberties.
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Dear Mr. President and Madam Secretary,

We are concerned by reports suggesting that the U.S. administration may acquiesce to an inadequate and possibly fraudulent transition process in Egypt. The process that is unfolding now has many of the attributes of a smokescreen. Without significant changes, it will lead to preservation of the current regime in all but name and ensure radicalization and instability in the future. Throwing the weight of the United States behind the proposals of President Mubarak and Vice President Suleiman, rather than the legitimate demands of the opposition, would be a serious error. What we seek in Egypt is not the current regime without the Mubarak family, but a true transition to democracy and an open political system that protects civil rights and liberties. The transition cannot be run exclusively by members of the old regime. It must include leaders of the democratic opposition who are empowered to effect the crucial changes necessary for full democracy.

President Obama has indicated that the transition must begin “now” and that Egypt cannot “go back” to where it was before the demonstrations began. For those words to have meaning, the administration must commit itself to full democracy in Egypt that can only be brought about with the participation of all of the democratic opposition and the unmistakable departure of Hosni Mubarak from the scene.

The need for constitutional changes is not a justification for the continuation in power of Hosni Mubarak. It is ironic that after years of manipulating the constitution to remain in power, Mubarak now presents himself as essential to preserving constitutional legitimacy. Moreover, Vice President Suleiman’s effort to intimidate the international community by arguing that Mubarak’s departure would necessitate elections within 60 days is disingenuous. There are avenues within the current constitution to avoid holding elections that quickly. What is missing here is political will to bring about real change in the Egyptian system.

We urge you to press for an unmistakable and irreversible transition to democracy with the following elements:

  • participation of democratic opposition leaders in all aspects of the transitional process
  • the expeditious departure of President Mubarak from the political scene
  • immediate abrogation of the emergency law and the release of political prisoners
  • clear commitment by the Egyptian government to guarantee freedom of association and expression for all Egyptians
  • extensive constitutional amendments to pave the way for free presidential and parliamentary elections
  • supervision of elections by independent judicial authorities and access to all aspects of elections by domestic and international monitors


Michele Dunne (Carnegie Endowment)
Robert Kagan (Brookings Institution)

On behalf of the Working Group on Egypt

The Working Group on Egypt is a nonpartisan initiative bringing substantial expertise on Egyptian politics and political reform, and aimed at ensuring that Egypt’s elections are free and fair and open to opposition candidates.


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About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.


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of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

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of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


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political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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