Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Some Good News From Egypt

by Elliott Abrams
April 7, 2011

A recent poll by the International Peace Institute asked Egyptians about their political preferences. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, 80 percent had a favorable opinion of Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa, versus only 10 percent for the head of the Muslim Brotherhood. More important, 63 percent want Egypt to honor its peace treaty with Israel against only 14 percent who do not. The poll also reveals wide support for the liberal and democratic groups that led the recent revolt against the Mubarak regime. Remarkably, 82 percent want Egypt to continue liberalizing and opening its economy.

I am not a great fan of Amre Moussa and do not view him as a champion of democracy. He was Mubarak’s foreign minister for a decade, and as head of the Arab League never seemed to care about democracy until the last few months, when Arabs rose up to demand it. But the data in this poll suggest that fears of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt may be overblown. Egyptians may be susceptible to demagogic appeals from politicians, but at least for now the poll indicates that many have a sensible view of their country’s economic and political situation.

It’s obvious that things can go badly wrong, especially if (due to the lack of tourism and of foreign investment) Egypt’s economy stagnates and frustration of the “revolution of rising expectations” leads to destructive populist policies. And the poll reveals a worrying (and inconsistent) view that the state should protect everyone’s job through its hold on the economy.

But those who are sure Egypt’s revolution will fail should restrain their pessimism. If the moderation and common sense reflected in this poll prevail, there may be good news from Egypt–with considerable impact on the entire Arab world.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Maine's Michael

    Egypt, with its 50-60% illiteracy rate, its headlong rush into ‘democracy’, and its disastrous economic underpinnings (including frank malnutrition/near starvation for a significant minority) does not have a good prognosis.

    To think that given these factors, the actual form of the ‘democracy’ that emerges has any meaning to the majority of Egyptians is delusional. The riots that drove Mubarak out had economic, not political underpinnings, and there is no solution to those economic realities, which at their core come from Egypt’s inability to compete with the rest of the world with sufficient success to provide for its teeming population.

    The Egypt-Israeli cold peace will get a lot colder, as whoever the leaders Egypt ends up being revert to Arab form and try and deflect blame/attention from their insurmountable problems.

    Of course, this is just an armchair opinion, a casual prognostication, and I defer to Mr. Abrams’ more informed and experienced perspective, which I hope is the correct one.

  • Posted by Maine's Michael

    And, Amr Moussa is a morally flexible, Jew hating demagogue. He’ll be perfect!

  • Posted by Judith

    Egyptian elections are upon us and I hope against hope that this poll would diminish the candidates’ appetite to base their campaign on Israel bashing or threats to stop honoring the treaty as the wily El Baradei did recently. In a recent speech Amr Mussah, of whom I am not a great fan either, came out in support of maintaining the peace with Israel.

  • Posted by John Robertson

    I’m hardly eager to see an Egyptian government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood (or any other religious party), but I’m curious to learn how this poll was administered, and to whom. I read Mr. Abrams’ post here just after reading David Ignatius’ latest, about Egyptian democracy’s “growing pains,” where he reports on a visit to a poor section of Old Cairo. In the recent constitutional referendum, voters there cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of the amendments, evidently largely at the encouragement of the MB, who told them that a vote against the amendments was a vote for a Christian Egypt.

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