Egypt: Just how weak can the administration be?
Nothing, as far as we can tell. Following the first round of voting, there were some carefully worded statements from the State Department and the White House, but nothing personally from the president or the secretary of state. And in the days following the equally fraudulent run-off elections, the administration was almost entirely silent.
In yesterday's Post the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, Michael Posner, wrote about the election in terms so mild, one would not suspect the administration was even mildly upset. Oh yes, he acknowledged:
Most reports show voter turnout in the recent parliamentary elections was less than 25 percent - reflecting Egyptians' lack of faith in their electoral process. Ongoing public demonstrations reinforce this fact. Indeed, in both rounds of parliamentary elections there were credible reports of significant government interference directed against voters at the ballot box. Opposition party observers and candidate representatives were blocked from polling places, domestic monitors were denied full access to observe the process, and international monitors were not allowed into the country. The June elections for Egypt's upper house of parliament were similarly troubled.
But what of it? I mean, do we consider this unacceptable? It's hard to tell, because Posner avoids even the mildest words of criticism. The worst thing he can say is that Iraq and Jordan held freer and more transparent elections this year. And with due respect to Posner, is this the highest-level official who cares about this issue?
You have to wonder: What is the point of such a mealy-mouthed expression by a relatively low-level functionary? You would think this only cements the impression that this administration is pathetically unserious about democracy promotion. This administration is diligent in recording human rights abuses, but inert when it comes to responding to them.
The problem is not limited to Egypt or even the Middle East, but the absence of resolve by the U.S. government is especially acute in that part of the world, which lacks many powerful champions for democracy and human rights. As a smart observer put it, "it's been a dreadful period for the victims themselves, left as they have been to ask themselves in silent desperation what has become of their champion." The answer is: He's not much interested in their plight.
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