from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Some Good News From Egypt

April 7, 2011

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A recent poll by the International Peace Institute asked Egyptians about their political preferences. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, 80 percent had a favorable opinion of Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa, versus only 10 percent for the head of the Muslim Brotherhood. More important, 63 percent want Egypt to honor its peace treaty with Israel against only 14 percent who do not. The poll also reveals wide support for the liberal and democratic groups that led the recent revolt against the Mubarak regime. Remarkably, 82 percent want Egypt to continue liberalizing and opening its economy.

I am not a great fan of Amre Moussa and do not view him as a champion of democracy. He was Mubarak’s foreign minister for a decade, and as head of the Arab League never seemed to care about democracy until the last few months, when Arabs rose up to demand it. But the data in this poll suggest that fears of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt may be overblown. Egyptians may be susceptible to demagogic appeals from politicians, but at least for now the poll indicates that many have a sensible view of their country’s economic and political situation.

It’s obvious that things can go badly wrong, especially if (due to the lack of tourism and of foreign investment) Egypt’s economy stagnates and frustration of the "revolution of rising expectations" leads to destructive populist policies. And the poll reveals a worrying (and inconsistent) view that the state should protect everyone’s job through its hold on the economy.

But those who are sure Egypt’s revolution will fail should restrain their pessimism. If the moderation and common sense reflected in this poll prevail, there may be good news from Egypt--with considerable impact on the entire Arab world.

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