US newspaper the Washington Post published on Tuesday its most scathing editorial yet criticising the recent developments in Egypt. Under the headline “Egypt’s bogus democracy doesn’t deserve US aid,” the editors argue that, “Egypt’s military regime is taking a major step this week toward installing an autocracy more repressive than any the country has known in decades.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Egyptians are voting on whether to accept a new constitution drafted by a committee that was appointed by Egypt’s interim authorities following a military coup that deposed Egypt’s first democratically elected government. About 360,000 security personnel have reportedly been dispatched into the streets for the vote, while those Egyptians campaigning to oppose the constitution are being intimidated, arrested, attacked and even killed.
The newspaper notes that, not only is the new constitution flawed in that it “exempts the army, police and intelligence services from civilian control and allows these services to prosecute in military courts anyone they deem threatening,” but also the referendum itself is: “being staged in a climate that makes a fair ballot impossible. Activists who have tried to peacefully campaign for a no vote have been arrested and prosecuted on charges of trying to change the constitution’s ‘principles’. Public demonstrations are banned, and police have killed 27 people and arrested 703 who tried to protest on the past three Fridays, according to Human Rights Watch.”
The editors also criticise the lack of proper electoral oversight, with the “vast majority” of voting monitors being in favour of the coup, and media coverage limited as a result of the military regime’s targeting of opposition media as well as international journalists.
Warning about the future, the editors stress that “Egyptians who vote in the referendum will do so without knowing when the regime will hold the presidential and parliamentary elections it has promised, or which will come first.” Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace adds to this warning, saying that Egyptians: “also won’t know the rules for drawing election districts, which in the past have been manipulated by the military to exclude opposition parties, or whether the next executive will retain such powers as the right to appoint provincial governors.”
The editors insist that voting under such conditions qualifies Egypt as a “bogus democracy” and stress that General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s proposed roadmap is “no more than a fig leaf covering the restoration of the pre-2011 regime, [but] in a more malignant form”.
Thus, the editors call upon the Obama administration to oppose proposed legislation currently being discussed in the US Congress that would exempt Egypt from a US law that requires Washington to cut off foreign aid to any country that has undergone a military coup. They warn that: “If President Obama believes the US should sanction a new autocracy in Egypt, he should make the case for doing so. Otherwise his administration should side with those Egyptians who continue to fight for a genuine democracy – starting with those who have been imprisoned.”