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EGYPT: Calls for action against Iran over elections

June 25, 2009 |  2:12 am


Since the recent clashes between Iranian authorities and demonstrators led by reformer Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who accused the country's supreme leader of forging the elections in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Egyptian government has been showing – even if not officially – its support toward Mousavi and his followers.

The Egyptian state-managed Al Ahram newspaper has published a number of articles that represented the government's position. Most of those articles asked the international community in general and Western countries in particular not to stand and watch the Iranian regime's oppressive tactics against demonstrators.

One article went on to suggest that by relying only on rhetoric, Western powers would be showing signs of weakness against Iranian hard-liners, and that would have negative consequences for their relations with a country that poses a nuclear threat to the region.

But is the Egyptian government really keen on Iranians' human rights? It has for years been criticized by rights groups and pro-democracy organizations for mass arrests, election abuses and violations of civil liberties. In parliamentary and presidential elections, ballot forgery has been practiced publicly and many voters were kept from reaching the polls.

By asking Western powers to interfere in Iran, the Egyptian administration may have left itself vulnerable on the question of fair elections. Egypt is one year away from parliamentary elections, which will be followed by the 2011 presidential election. If both were carried out with the same glitches and allegations of corruption as in 2004 and 2005, the government could encounter pressure from other countries to provide more transparency.

The government's concern for unrest in Iran most likely has less to do with the rights of Iranian voters than it does with Cairo's regional struggles with Tehran. Iranian support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories has clearly angered President Hosni Mubarak's administration, especially after an alleged Hezbollah plot to back terrorist attacks against Israeli tourists in Egypt was discovered.

So it appears Egypt may be more interested in geopolitics than voting rights when it comes to Iran. But at least now Egyptians can hope that if they ask for international monitoring of their elections they won't be accused of treason. Their government already demanded the same in Iran.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Iranian Basiji militiamen face demonstrators. Credit: AFP