Egypt still represents the best chance for U.S. democracy promotion in the Arab world in the near future, according to this Policy Brief by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The situation in Iraq and Islamist electoral victories in the region have seen support for U.S. democracy promotion wane among domestic audiences and within the administration. Yet claims that the U.S. must choose between democracy promotion and strategic cooperation in Egypt—or between an authoritarian government and an Islamic extremist one—set a false premise. The authors argue that making democratization a cornerstone of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is the best way to promote both countries’ interests now and over the long term.
In this Carnegie Policy Brief, Egypt—Don’t Give Up on Democracy Promotion, senior associates Nathan Brown, Michele Dunne, and Amr Hamzawy assess the current state of democratic reforms and the potential for transition in Egypt. They recommend a number of steps the U.S. can take to strengthen the chances for political reform and salvage previous U.S. efforts towards democracy promotion in the Arab world.
• Egypt—an Arab country with a history of political participation, which is now undergoing a leadership transition—offers a unique opportunity for transition to a more liberal system and eventually to democracy.
• The United States had a positive impact on political reform in 2004-5 while maintaining Egypt’s cooperation on shared military and political goals, but then backed off suddenly in 2006, encouraging the Egyptian regime to backslide.
• The United States should support demands by Egyptian reformers for presidential term limits, free and fair elections, responsible enfranchisement of all political forces (including Islamists), and constitutional protection of human and civil rights.
“If the U.S. supports indigenous demands for gradual and responsible political change, it can help Egypt break out of years of political and economic stagnation and human rights abuses,” write the authors. “If it misses this opportunity, prospects for a stable, prosperous Egypt will diminish, with negative consequences for Egypt and the United States.”
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About the Authors
Michele Dunne is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin. She is a specialist on Middle East affairs, formerly at the State Department and White House.
Amr Hamzawy is a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment. He is a noted Egyptian political scientist whose research focuses on the changing dynamics of political participation in the Arab world, and the political role of Islamist movements.
Nathan Brown is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and is also professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Middle East Studies Program at the George Washington University.