No surprise in Egypt’s election of al-Sisi–let’s move on

Unofficial returns from Egypt’s election are coming out, and they look like Soviet Russia, Syria or, yes, Mubarak’s Egypt. Military strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won, say, 93 percent of the vote. His only opponent got about 3 percent, and the rest were spoiled ballots. Liberals are wailing about the outcome, and I’ve even seen an article extolling the people who invalidated their ballots as revolutionary heroes.

All this is a sad, pitiful outcome to Arab Spring. Egypt is back where it was–a military leader in charge, elected by the people, many of whom either felt they had no alternative or missed the days of “stability” under Mubarak. The majority stayed home, either frightened by near-daily violence or beaten down by six other elections in three years that have come to this.

The government is saying turnout was 44 percent…there’s some doubt about that, given the reports of nearly empty voting stations across the country, especially on the extra third day of voting. 

What we in the West need to understand is that this was not an election of the type we’re used to. This was an election in a society that has no background in democracy, has been trained to do what it is told and is rightfully frightened by the consequences of defying the rulers. Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood backers are in prison, hundreds of demonstrators have been killed in clashes with the military, and reporters are systematically intimidated.

What should we do? Accept the situation as it is, help Egypt overcome its brutal economic problems and embark on a long-term program to help reform the society. So far all the US has done is the opposite, trying to force the regime to liberalize through sanctions and aid reduction. That will backfire–and it’s wrong.

chilling in the Nile

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