Just days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Cairo that the Obama administration is providing $190 million in immediate aid to Egypt, the political crisis that has rocked the nation for months was worsened by a court’s suspension of parliamentary elections.
The elections were scheduled to begin in April, but the Cairo administrative court ruled that the Islamist-dominated parliament had improperly pushed though a law organizing the elections without allowing the Supreme Constitutional Court to review it to ensure it conforms with the constitution.
The court annulled a decree by President Mohammed Morsi, who had pledged economic and political reforms during a meeting with Secretary of State Kerry.
The U.S. is providing the $190 million immediately as part of a larger pledge of $450 million over time.
The International Monetary Fund is also requiring Egypt to satisfy several conditions to close a $4.8 billion package of loans.
The U.S. also is providing a separate $60 million for a new fund to grant direct support to Egyptian entrepreneurs and young people.
But the suspension of parliamentary elections will trigger a legal battle and deepen the political tension between Morsi, an Islamist, and his opponents. Egypt has been paralyzed because of the political deadlock, infighting among state institutions, a faltering economy and a wave of protests, strikes and clashes against the president and his Muslim Brotherhood.
Since Sunday, six people have been reported killed in the Suez Canal city of Port Said. The military has been dragged in. Protesters hurled stones at police firing tear gas, while army troops struggled to keep the two sides apart.
The widespread public anger since Morsi consolidated power — many Egyptians were reminded of the dictatorial rule of strongman Hosni Mubarak — has kept Egypt in a state of unrest. There does not appear to be an immediate solution. Liberal and secular opponents of the Brotherhood have called for a boycott of the parliamentary elections because of the absence of political consensus.
But even if there is a political meeting of the minds, Islamists are likely to win a majority of the legislative seats, which means concerns about Egypt becoming a theocracy like Iran will be exacerbated. Morsi has strongly denied that he has any intention of changing Egypt’s secular tradition of governance, but the election of Islamic extremists would put the president’s position at risk.
Given that the United States is making such a major economic commitment to that troubled country, it would behoove the Obama administration to work with Morsi to find a solution to the political crisis.
The American people will not sit back and watch their dollars being wasted in a country that is not committed to democracy, freedom and human rights