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International pressure needed to stop bloodshed in Egypt
Publication Date : 17-08-2013
Egypt has seen its bloodiest incident since the autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak ended in 2011.
An early end to the violence is to be hoped for, but a bumpy road lies ahead.
Egypt’s military-led interim government crushed sit-in protests by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Wednesday. His supporters clashed with government security forces across the country, resulting in a death toll that the Egyptian Health Ministry reported as more than 500.
The interim government declared a one-month state of emergency, but there is no prospect of the chaos subsiding. Eyewitnesses say security forces fired live bullets at rally participants. The government cannot escape condemnation for using excessive force.
Diplomatic efforts by the United States and the European Union to avoid clashes between the military-led government and Morsi’s supporters have come to nothing.
It was natural that the United States and the EU strongly condemned the interim government over its brutal crushing of the demonstrations. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed “strong concern and anxiety” about the bloody incident.
Secularist Mohamed ElBaradei, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, resigned as Egypt’s vice president in protest, saying “there must have been a more peaceful choice”.
The military ousted and detained Morsi in a de facto coup in July. Even after the establishment of the interim government, the military increased pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s main support base, in such ways as seeking criminal charges against its leaders on suspicion of instigating riots.
Brotherhood also to blame
The Muslim Brotherhood is also to blame for the situation.
Despite the Morsi administration having made policy blunders that worsened the economy and reduced public safety, the Brotherhood clung to its demand for Morsi’s reinstatement after he was deposed. The Islamist organisation rejected dialogue with the military-led provisional government, thereby intensifying confrontation.
The interim government has announced a road map for democratisation that calls for revising the Constitution within this year, holding a parliamentary election early next year and then calling a new presidential election.
But without participation of the Brotherhood, the biggest political force in Egypt, in the process of reinstating a civilian government, it will hardly be possible to realise social and political stability. To help achieve a return to civilian rule, the interim government should take conciliatory steps such as releasing Morsi in preparation for resuming dialogue with its political adversaries.
The Brotherhood, for its part, should take a more flexible stance toward dialogue.
Arab Spring reforms still have a long way to go. If the chaos is protracted in Egypt, a great regional power, there is concern that the stabilisation of the Middle East as a whole will be further delayed.
As long as the military-led interim government continues to use force against its opponents, the situation will only go from bad to worse. International pressure must be brought to bear in such ways as suspending military assistance by the United States, Egypt’s biggest aid donor, thereby forcing the interim government to refrain from bloodily quashing its political foes.