Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Election Delay in Egypt?

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The Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, reportedly hinted strongly yesterday that the parliamentary elections scheduled for September might be postponed until after a new constitution is drawn up, a process also supposed to begin in September. Such a postponement might well be the best news about Egypt's democratic prospects to have appeared in a while.

As experts David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Khairi Abaza of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies are quoted as asserting here, such a delay would grant "the liberal opposition time to organize, and essentially catch up to the Islamists" (the exact wording is Schenker's but Abaza expresses similar sentiments).

The truth is, as Barry Rubin has recently noted, Egypt's liberal opposition look very poorly prepared to fight and win an election. Indeed, as Indian journalist Jagdish N. Singh noted in a valuable paper he did for Israel's Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies this week, "Developments in post-Mubarak Egypt are beginning to mirror the process of Islamization that took place in Iran following the 1979 revolution," with other forces increasingly rallying behind the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood because they look like the wave of the future.

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