If Washington is going to be good to its word in supporting change in Egypt, policymakers are going to have to live with an influential Muslim Brotherhood
A man shows his ink stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Cairo / Reuters
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After a week of demonstrations, violence, and counterdemonstrations, Egypt's first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections are underway. So far so good. There are sporadic reports of tension at polling places outside the big cities, but there hasn't been any violence. As the day has gone on the Egyptian people's enthusiasm for the election seems to have grown. My friends on the ground say that lines at polling stations are long and voting has been extended to 9:00pm (2:00pm EST). Like the national party that unfolded in Tahrir Square on February 11th and 12th, what we are observing today is the very best of Egypt.
Even at this early stage, it is possible to draw a few important conclusions:
- The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is correct. Tahrir Square is not Egypt. There is a silent majority that supports the military's approach to Egypt's transition. That said, the people who turned out in Tahrir Square last week to demand change and make their voices heard should not be subject to the repression of the Egyptian state just because they happen to disagree with its current leadership. This is a hallmark of democratic politics.
- Today's elections are a strong riposte to those in Washington and elsewhere who have begun to bemoan the downfall of President Mubarak. I've heard the argument that "Egyptians want stability and the army should give them what they want" a few too many times. Clearly, large numbers of Egyptians have put their trust in the military to oversee a transition, but by their large turnout today, these same Egyptians clearly want a new kind of politics and political system.
- The Muslim Brotherhood is, indeed, the most well-organized, resourced, and politically savvy political movement in Egypt. The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party is going to reap the rewards of these factors.