For Immediate Release
Examining Egypt’s Presidential Election
WASHINGTON - Today, as Egyptian voters head to the polls this week in the first round of historic presidential elections that should mark the beginning of the end of formal military rule in the country, the Center for American Progress released “Previewing Egypt’s 2012 Presidential Elections: Another Step Forward in the Country’s Political Tranistion – but Not the Last,” by CAP Senior Fellow Brian Katulis. This issue brief includes background on the presidential elections, the three issues dominating the national debate for the past few months, the next phase of Egypt’s political transition and the U.S. response.
These are the first competitive presidential elections Egypt has ever had. They signal an important step forward in the opaque political transition managed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—which consists of a body of senior officers in the Egyptian military—since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011. Most analysts estimate that no single candidate will receive more than 50 percent of the vote this week, which would require a runoff between the top two candidates in mid-June. If the election proceeds according to current plans, the military rulers will formally hand over power to a civilian government by the end of June. Even after a new president is sworn into office, however, Egypt’s political transition will remain incomplete as the country faces unresolved debates over plans for a new constitution and continued questions the military’s budgetary power and control of key sectors of the economy.
As Egypt completes the first period of its political transition with the presidential elections this summer, the United States should undertake a major interagency review of its Egypt policy. In the third quarter of this year, the White House should bring all of its agencies together—the State Department, Pentagon, Treasury Department, Commerce Department, and the key intelligence agencies—to conduct a thorough strategic policy review. This review would examine all options for updating the tools for engaging Egypt at a time of fundamental political change and would plan for the new government coming into office there. This strategic review would help prepare the Obama administration or a new U.S. administration for new negotiations with Egypt’s leaders later this year and in 2013.
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Once there is greater clarity about Egypt’s political transition, the United States and Egypt should begin a bilateral strategic dialogue in early 2013 aimed at renegotiating the basic terms of their relationship. The shift in political power from the Mubarak regime to multiple centers of power and increased public political participation necessitates this strategic dialogue, which would provide structure for a process in which both countries can reaffirm their core shared interests and can identify areas for developing new ways to enhance the bilateral relationship and update the way Egypt and the United States have managed their ties for decades. The end goal of this organized negotiation is to help build a more stable foundation for U.S.-Egyptian bilateral ties.
The final result of this process would mean a fundamental redefinition of U.S.-Egyptian ties that would seek to build cooperation on economic growth, trade, regional diplomacy, and continued cooperation on regional security and counterterrorism cooperation. To achieve this, the United States and Egypt need to work to expand the range of contacts to include members of Egypt’s parliament and Congress, and build broader business and civil society ties. With multiple centers of power emerging in Egypt, gone are the days when the United States can have a dialogue with a small set of leaders in Egypt’s government. Just as Egypt has entered into a profound political and economic transition, U.S. policy must change as well.
Read the full issue brief here.
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