An official website of the United States government

Egypt Facing “Crucial Time,” U.S. Says
June 20, 2012

By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
June 19, 2012

A street protest
Egyptian activists shout slogans against military rule in front of the parliament compound in Cairo. Egypt’s military has committed to oversee Egypt’s democratic transition and needs to do so swiftly, the U.S. says.

The Obama administration called on Egypt’s military rulers to uphold their commitment to free and fair elections as the country’s election officials prepare to announce the winner of Egypt’s presidential runoff contest.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said June 19 that “this is a crucial time for the right decisions to be made, and those decisions are going to have an impact on how we go forward.”

Egyptians voted June 16–17, and some press reports predicted that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi would defeat former Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq to become Egypt’s first president since protesters successfully ousted the regime of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Nuland said the election has not been officially called, and there has not been a formal report issued by the election monitoring group, but said U.S. officials “will take their views very seriously.”

“This is a very important couple of days for the Egyptians to get it right in keeping with their commitment to have free, fair and transparent presidential elections,” she said.

The election was held two days after the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court’s June 14 ruling that a third of Egypt’s parliament had been illegally elected in 2011, and it declared that “the makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand.”

U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have been in contact with members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and “we’ve been very clear with them, privately and publicly, what our expectations are if they’re going to meet their commitments to the Egyptian people,” Nuland said.

On June 18, Nuland said the United States is “particularly concerned” by the recent legal and political decisions “that appear to prolong the military’s hold on power.”

She called on the SCAF to “restore popular and international confidence in the democratic transition process by following through on their stated commitments to an inclusive, constitutional drafting process; the timely seating of a democratically elected parliament; and the swift, permanent transfer of power to a civilian government.”

The military has publicly committed to hand over power to the newly elected president by July 1, and “we want to see them meet” that commitment, she said.

But along with handing over power to the president, Egypt still needs to have a democratically elected parliament and a constitution if there is to be a full transfer to civilian power, Nuland said.

“The military has made a commitment to the Egyptian people that they would be good stewards during this period of a democratic transition process. They need to now complete that process and they need to complete it swiftly and give all of us, starting with their own people, confidence,” she said.