The Mubarak regime in Egypt suppressed the opposition so crudely for the Nov. 28 elections that it demands a strong US reaction.
Egypt, after all, is the second largest recipient of American aid, the most populous Arab nation, and the birthplace of modern radical Islam. In theory, it could become a beacon of liberty for a Middle East largely stuck in medieval ways.
In 2005, when President George W. Bush was strongly pushing democracy in the region as an antidote to terrorism, the political opposition in Egypt won more than one-fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament.
By contrast, last Sunday’s elections were so full of fraud, violence, ballot rigging, bogus arrests, and other heavy-handed tactics – even by Egyptian standards – that the ruling National Democratic Party “won” nearly all the seats. The opposition was almost wiped out, left with only a few representatives. The vast majority of Egyptians stayed away from the polls, knowing how little their voice means.
It’s clear now that the authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak has dropped any pretense about a multiparty system and fair elections as it struggles internally over who will succeed the ailing octogenarian general, who has ruled since 1979.
And then this weekend, the disclosure of secret US dispatches by WikiLeaks revealed this: Mr. Mubarak advised a group of US lawmakers in 2008 to “forget” about democracy in Iraq. The leaked cables also cited US diplomats as saying Egypt is “stubborn and recalcitrant” about taking advice.
The debacle of the Nov. 28 elections should be seen as a major blow to President Obama’s recent rhetoric about democracy. Just two months ago, after meeting with Mubarak, Mr. Obama called for “credible and transparent elections in Egypt.” And in a famous 2009 speech to all Muslims delivered in Cairo, he pledged his commitment “to governments that reflect the will of the people.”