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US to Egypt: Stick to election plan, even if it favors Islamist parties

The Obama administration is caught between two unpalatable options: backing elections that the Islamists are likely to win, or recommending a postponement and risk sounding anti-democratic.

Protesters pray front of the Egyptian military after negotiating a truce between them and riot police, after clashing along a road leading to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square in Cairo Wednesday. Protesters have derided an agreement forged by Egypt's ruling generals and mostly Islamist parties for a swifter transfer to civilian rule.

Amr Abdallah Dalsh/REUTERS

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The United States is encouraging Egypt’s military rulers to stick to a schedule of elections set to kick off next week, despite continuing violence – and despite the likelihood that the electoral timetable favors the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements.

The Obama administration is in essence caught between two unpalatable options: pressing ahead for elections that the Islamists are likely to win, and thereby sounding like a force for Egypt’s democratic transition; or recommending a postponement that a growing number of liberal Egyptians prefer, but which risks coming across as anti-democratic.

Egypt’s transitional military rulers announced Wednesday that parliamentary elections set to begin Monday will go ahead, despite five days of violence that has left more than 35 Egyptians dead and scores wounded.

The plan to proceed with voting was worked out at a meeting Tuesday between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, the two most powerful institutions in post-Hosni-Mubarak Egypt. The new plan also calls for presidential elections to be held before July, an apparent acceleration of a previously announced transition plan.

Other political parties were invited to Tuesday’s meeting, but most liberal secular movements boycotted it.    


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