Egypt's turbulent experiment in participatory democracy the last three years has reminded us all that it's not one vote that determines a democracy, it's all the steps that follow. It's a challenging transition that demands compromise, vigilance, and constant tending. The draft Egyptian constitution passed a public referendum this week, but it's what comes next that will shape Egypt’s political, economic and social framework for generations.
As Egypt’s transition proceeds, the United States urges the interim Egyptian government to fully implement those rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in the new constitution for the benefit of the Egyptian people, and to take steps towards reconciliation.
The brave Egyptians who stood vigil in Tahrir Square did not risk their lives in a revolution to see its historic potential squandered in the transition. They've weathered ups and downs, disappointment and setbacks in the years that followed, and they're still searching for the promise of that revolution. They still know that the path forward to an inclusive, tolerant, and civilian-led democracy will require Egypt’s political leaders to make difficult compromises and seek a broad consensus on many divisive issues.
Democracy is more than any one referendum or election. It is about equal rights and protections under the law for all Egyptians, regardless of their gender, faith, ethnicity, or political affiliation.
We have consistently expressed our serious concern about the limits on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression in Egypt, including leading up to the referendum, just as we expressed our concerns about the dangerous path Egypt's elected government had chosen in the year that lead to 2013's turbulence. The United States again urges all sides to condemn and prevent violence and to move towards an inclusive political process based on the rule of law and respect for the fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians.
As we have said from the beginning, we strongly believe that permitting international observers to monitor and report freely on electoral events is important in building confidence in Egypt’s political transition.
The preliminary assessments of Democracy International and the Carter Center underscore the challenges ahead, including Egypt’s polarized political environment, the absence of a fully inclusive process in drafting and debating the constitution ahead of the referendum, arrests of those campaigning against the constitution, and procedural violations during the referendum, such as campaigning in proximity to and inside polling stations and lack of ballot secrecy.
We strongly encourage the interim Egyptian government to take these concerns into account as preparations are made for presidential and parliamentary elections.
The work that began in Tahrir Square must not end there. The interim government has committed repeatedly to a transition process that expands democratic rights and leads to a civilian-led, inclusive government through free and fair elections. Now is the time to make that commitment a reality and to ensure respect for the universal human rights of all Egyptians.