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Atlantic Council
November 30, 2011
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Operator: This is the Allison Biggs teleconference with The Atlantic Council of the U.S. for Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 10:00AM Central Time. Excuse me, everyone. We now have Michele Dunne, director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at The Atlantic Council as well Fred Kempe, president and CEO of The Atlantic Council on the line. Please be aware that each of your lines is in a "listen only" mode. At the conclusion of their remarks, we will open the floor for questions. At that time instructions will be given as to how to proceed if you would like to ask a question. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Kempe, who will be offering some introductory remarks and introducing Dr. Dunne. Mr. Kempe, you may begin.

Fred Kempe: Thanks very much. I’m going to pass to Michele as quickly as I can. Let me just say a couple of things. This is Fred Kempe. We’ve been doing these calls for two reasons. First of all, to be as close to the "news," the events, as we can because we know a lot of our members need to make decisions, need to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. Also, our membership is increasingly global and so to hold just a meeting our Atlantic Council offices doesn’t really allow us to serve our global membership and friends and so we’ve introduced for this reason as well. So, welcome to this exclusive briefing on Egypt’s historic Parliamentary elections straight from Cairo where Michele Dunne was closely following the poling process on Monday and Tuesday as an official election observer in the City of Port Said and she’ll tell you more about that. She was part of the delegation organized by the International Republican Institute and Michele is calling in from Cairo to offer first-hand perspective on the candidates and the parties that will shape the future landscape. She’ll also be able to shed some light on the logistical and security challenges of administering this highly complex three-stage polling process. We launched the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East in July with the hiring of Michele. We see this as an organization that can really harness and leverage the strength of the Atlantic community toward the reform process of awakening across the Middle East and North Africa at this crucial time in history. Michele is the director. She brings to the Council, both an understanding of Washington policy and how things work in this complex town, and the forces in the region of the Arab awakening. She has a lot of experience on the ground; Foreign Service postings in Jerusalem and Cairo, assignments with National Security Council, and the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, and here at The Atlantic Council, she’s been writing about her experience as an election monitor for the Center’s new blog, Egypt Source, and you’ll be able to find that at Michele, thanks very much for joining us. Let me just let you make a few opening comments and then we’ll go straight into question and answer. You’ll be given instructions by the Operator about how to place your questions when Michele is finished with her opening comments. Michele, over to you.

Michele Dunne: Thank you, Fred. Good morning, everyone. This is Michele Dunne. I’m calling you from Cairo. I spent the last three days in the City of Port Said on the Mediterranean as an official election observer there. Let me talk first about where Egypt is in its electoral process. So, what has now happened is that Egypt has completed the first part of round one of six rounds of Parliamentary elections. There will be three rounds for the People Assembly, three rounds for the Shura Council, the Upper House in Parliament, and there will be one off for each of these rounds. The first round that now is partly through, except for the run-off still has to happen, were districts in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Luxor, Asyut, and some rural areas. The second round will begin December 14. The People Assembly elections will be completed in the middle of January and then the Upper House Shura elections will be finished in March. So, this parliament is, we’re not going to see the complete shape of the new Egyptian Parliament until March. So, the results are going to come out slowly. What we’re hearing right now in Egypt is that we will get the first electoral official results tomorrow evening and these will be results for only one-third of the seats in this round that we’re looking at, the individual candidate seats, because one-third of each house of Parliament will be individual candidates and two-thirds are party list candidates, and many of these races are going to lead to run-offs. Now, the two-thirds of the seats that are party list candidates are not going to be announced for some time. We might hear the vote tallies, which will give some indication of who won those proportional seats, but the actual allocations of seats isn’t going to take place until the end of each House of the Parliament’s election, because the parties need to clear a nationwide threshold of 0.5 percent of the popular to claim their seat. Let me say a few words about what I saw in Port Said. Port Said had four party list seats or proportional seats and two individual seats that were up for election. First of all, as Fred said, I was part of a delegation. I was part of an IRI observer delegation and I need to say at the outset that I’m operating under some ground rules in my comments to you, because I’ve been asked as part of this delegation not to pass any general judgments about how free or fair this electoral process was. What I saw was a very limited sample, so I can speak to you about what I saw with my own eyes, but what this was, I mean, I visited about one-third of the polling places in one city. Okay? And that’s a very small sample of what was happening. What I saw in that small sample was, for the most part, judges, poll workers, security personnel, that seemed to be trying to run the process correctly. There were many imperfections. There were things that I saw happening, like voting out in public rather than, not in public, but outside in the room of the polling place as opposed to behind a booth, failure to enforce the fact that voters were supposed to dip their fingers in ink, and things like that. I did not personally see anything that looks like deliberate fraud, but again, I saw a very limited sample. And there are some things also about the electoral law here that there might be some gaps in the electoral process. For example, it did not seem like pollers really counted all the ballots at the beginning and the end of the day, which is generally the case in most other kinds of elections. Probably the most interesting thing that I saw going on that could have a real effect on these elections was that there was extensive campaigning going on on Election Day itself and according to my knowledge of the regulations, there was not supposed to be any campaigning for 48 hours before the beginning of voting. However, there were lots of campaign volunteers out, not inside the polling places, but outside them, giving out leaflets and giving out little cards with the names and pictures and little symbols that each party and candidate had. And in the places where I was, the most active parties were the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nour Party, which is Salafi Islamist Party, the Egyptian Block, which is basically a secularist block of parties, and the Wassat Party, which is a kind of a moderate Islamist Party. The official results of Port Said have not been announced yet. What I’m seeing on blogs and so forth that I’m reading here is that the early indications from the vote count is that in terms of the party lists, the four party list seats or proportional seats, that the freedom and Justice Party, the Nour Party, and the Wassat; the three Islamist parties, were the biggest vote-getters. And that of the two individual seats, the Freedom and Justice Party candidate won one of the seats, the other seat might well go to a run-off between a leftist and a Salafi. So, that’s what I’m hearing from the district that I saw. What I saw and what I heard from people was that a lot of voters left their houses to vote without knowing for whom they were going to vote and so what that means is that this campaign that took place on Election Day could have had a lot of impact, that if people are walking into the polling place and, frankly, befuddled by an enormous list of candidates in some cases, that someone handing them a small card with a face and a name and a symbol on it could have affected their votes and that another thing that was going on was that several of the parties, certainly the Freedom and Justice Party, Nour Party, and the Egyptian Block, had little booths outside the polling places where people could stop and check, make sure of their specific polling place, because it’s very specific. They had to, each voter had to go to a certain room inside a certain polling place. So, they really did, to save time and not get into the wrong line, they really did need to check. Now, if they had access to a computer, they could have checked this from home, but, of course, a lot of them don’t and so there were people with laptops, volunteers from these Parties, sitting there that would check the voter’s registration and tell him or her exactly where they needed to go to vote. And in some cases, write that down on the back of a card featuring a candidate or a Party. Sometimes write it on a slip of paper, but they would have posters for their candidates and so forth. So, I think this is something that we’ll have to see as this process moves on, but it looks like these are the kind of activities that possibly could have a lot of impact on the results. If people receive campaign materials at the very last minute or thought they were helped out by volunteers from a party at the very last minute with knowing where to vote, that could have affected their votes. I just want to say a couple words about putting these elections into a larger context, because I’ve seen some things in the media discussing whether the fact that Egyptians seem to have participated in large numbers, does that constitute a rejection of the protest that we have seen taking place in Tahrir and so forth. And most of the Egyptians that I’ve spoken to over the last few days really don’t see it that way. People do have different feelings; some people approve of the protest in Tahrir, some people don’t, but there were many people, for example, who approve of the protest in Tahrir who also participated in the elections. I think Egyptians saw themselves as voting to begin a transition of authority from the military to elected civilians. This did seem like a strong turnout. We don’t have any specific numbers on what the turnout was and I don’t want to estimate that, but I also want to point out that this is a strong turnout in an Egyptian context where in past elections you would see very, very small numbers, 5 percent or something like that, of registered voters turning out. So, if there’s anything that, if the official turnout ends up being anything over 50 percent, I think Egyptians will see this as having been a strong turnout. In general, the people I’m talking to and the people I spoke to yesterday were feeling quite good and quite proud of this process. We’re seeing emerged in the Egyptian media a few notable exceptions, a few districts where there was serious problem, either with the voting or with the counting process. But in general, Egyptians are feeling good about what happened over the last couple of days. I want to point out, however, that this is the beginning of the beginning here, that there is still to come the announcement of results, run-offs, and the allocation of seats from the vote tabulation. All of these things could cause hard feelings down the road and we just don’t know whether people will feel good about this process at the end, feel as good about then as they do now. Also, thank goodness, there wasn’t much violence during this very first round. But again, I think we have to reserve judgment, because that could easily intensify during the run-offs and during succeeding rounds. I don’t want to sound excessively negative, but I remember what happened in 2005 where they also had three rounds of elections and they became more and more violent, so the tension rose, the stakes rose as different parties started realizing who was winning and who was losing. So, that’s something, I think, that we have to keep our eyes open about as this process moves forward. The early indications that we’re seeing is a very strong Islamist showing. I think in certain places, like in Alexandria and Port Said and Faiyum, it will not surprise people here if there’s a very strong Islamist showing. If there’s a very strong Islamist showing in Cairo, I think that will be a bit more surprising to Egyptians, but we don’t know the answer to that yet. And then we’re left with the larger question of what these elections will mean for the overall political transition. There are some big questions about what the powers of this Parliament are going to be when you still have a military leadership in control, and what that will mean? For example, the military has been appointing the Cabinet and has been appointing largely technocratic Cabinets during this transition. The Freedom and Justice Party, there were some comments from people in the Freedom and Justice Party saying that, "Well, surely if they get a plurality in Parliament, they will be asked to form the next government, which I find a very interesting statement. Egypt doesn’t have a parliamentary system of government under the current constitution. And so the Cabinet does not arise out of the elected Parliament. The Cabinet is appointed by the President or, in this case, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is standing in that place until a president is elected, but we see already that, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood, they want their to be a parliamentary system and, if they win a strong showing in this Parliament, they’re going to be asserting themselves and trying to shape the political system in Egypt, even before there are constitutional changes, so that will be something really interesting to watch. I think once there is an elected Parliament with a popular mandate, the staff, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is going to have a lot less freedom of maneuver, that the Parliament is going to be something to contend with. So, I’ll stop there and welcome your questions.

Fred Kempe: Michele, that was a terrific briefing and I want the Operator, before I ask my question, the Operator can give the instructions about how people can ask their questions

Operator: Thank you. At this time, we will be opening the line to questions. If you would like to ask a question, please press the "star" key followed by the "one" key; "star one" on your Touchtone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they’re received. Please be sure to introduce yourself when asking a question. If at any time you’d like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, just press "star two."

Fred Kempe: And this is on the record with the caveat that Michele gave regarding IRI and her ability to make general comments about the fairness and clearness of the electoral process. Let me just ask on thing. Michele, you’ve followed Egypt for many years; one of your great strengths is your knowledge of that country. Just through this process, have you learned anything new about Egypt, particularly in regard to Muslim Brotherhood and the military? And are you seeing this society develop or change? I know it’s early days; in any way where which you find revelatory thus far?

Michele Dunne: Well, I mean, yes, I think we’re going to learn a lot of things about Egypt through this process, because as I said, there’s a lot of Egyptians participating in these numbers in the political process, so their views and so forth were really unknown. One of the things that I thought was interesting yesterday was, I mean, I saw the Muslim Brotherhood’s level of organization and mobilization of its volunteers at work. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was there distributing campaign materials at just about every polling place that I visited and they had a party or candidate agent inside watching the voting process, which is allowed, in just about every place, and that wasn’t true of the other parties. The other parties were simply not organized, did not have as many people deployed in as many places. So, that verified what, of course, you’ve been hearing a long time about the level of organization on the part of the Brotherhood, but also I think I was a little bit surprised by what seemed to be the impact of the last minute campaigning that parties might have spent a lot of time developing their platform, then going out in the media and so forth. And what I realized yesterday is while, of course, those kind of activities have value, they might actually have less impact than the very simple things of putting up a lot of enormous posters right outside the polling place or distributing these little cards or having these little kiosks at the polling places; those activities that were taking place right before people voted. So, I think that Egyptians themselves are going to learn a lot from this process and we probably are going to see these parties reevaluate their campaign strategies before the next round. Also, it was clear, even though we have seen all these parties that have registered since the Revolution, it’s clear that there are only a few of them that have any legs at all. There are only a few of them that are going to be a presence in this Parliament and that we might not see, a lot of people have been predicting a Parliament with many, many political forces and lots of independence and so forth, and a very broken up non-cohesive type of Parliament. The very early indications we’re getting from the voting, and it is very early, is that that might not be the case and we might actually see just a few parties really having a strong presence.

Fred Kempe: Thanks, Michele. I’m going to go straight to the Operator to pick up the questions.

Operator: Thank you. Our first question comes from Ron Freeman from Atlantic Council Board of Directors.

Ron Freeman: This is Ron Freeman. Michele, did you see any indication one way or the other that the military powers are supportive or not supportive of this process, seeing it through its finish?

Michele Dunne: Well, I mean, what I saw, Ron, was that there were military officers outside of every polling place. Almost every polling place I saw had military and police cooperating together to secure the polling place. I did not personally witness any indication that they were interfering in the process. But again, I want to emphasize; I saw a very limited sample. I don’t want to pass a general judgment on that. But they seemed to be, they were outside the polling place and there were soldiers there in front of these polling places and then at the end of the process, the ballot boxes were loaded into trucks and brought to a central counting place, accompanied by military vehicles, and then there they were unloaded and the votes were counted by, at least in the counting place that I witnessed, they were counted by the same people, the same judge and his staff, that had supervised those boxes all day long. So, I didn’t personally witness any activity by the military that looked to be interfering.

Ron Freeman: Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from Egypt and Dr. Magda Kandil.

Magda Kandil: Yes, thank you. Michele, I was wondering, covering the election, whether you have an assessment on the implications of the process thus far on the political stand-off that is just between SCAF and the activists in Tahrir Square, and whether there are any downside risks that remain to be considered as far as the timetable that the SCAF has quoted before the election for the transition of power?

Michele Dunne: Thank you, Magda. Yes, that’s a very interesting question because while these elections are going on there is another political story unfolding, sort of, in the background, which is that in response to the very strong demonstrations that we have seen in Tahrir over the last week or so, the Cabinet resigned and the SCAF now has appointed a new Prime Minister and asked him to form a new Cabinet. And I understand we might see that Cabinet announced shortly. But I think there is still more tension to come between the SCAF and the demonstrators on this question of when the SCAF is going to turn over executive power. It’s known that once the Parliament is formed that the SCAF will turn over legislative power, but the SCAF would like to put off the turnover of executive power for some time. In response to the demonstrations, the SCAF said it would allow presidential elections to be held by the end of June of next year instead of they had been talking about a much longer timetable with presidential elections taking place in 2013 and they’ve gone ahead and appointed a new Prime Minister. But the new Prime Minister is not particularly popular, certainly the demonstrators in Tahrir made clear their rejection. So, what I think is going to happen is we’re going to see a resumption of tension between demonstrators and revolutionary groups who want to keep up the pressure on the SCAF to turn over power and then those who are gaining power through this Parliament, their voices now are going to be added to this. And it’s too early to tell; it looks likely that we’re going to see in the Parliament groups who want the SCAF to hand over power more quickly, but it’s very early to know that. But there’s going to be now, as I mentioned already, there’s going to be an elected body with a popular mandate, so instead of having a lot of disorganized political forces that the SCAF can listen to or choose not to listen to, they’re going to have elected people who, I think, they’re going to have to pay a lot more attention to.

Magda Kandil: Uh-huh. Thank you.

Fred Kempe: Thank you, Michele. Again, "star one" for people who want to ask questions and, while we’re waiting for a couple more to come in, Michele, what I wonder whether you can talk a little about is: In the context of that last question, what’s now unfolding in Tahrir Square, the apparent violence, conflict, what symbolism is Tahrir Square taking on now? How do you interpret what’s going on there and the end points of it? Secondarily, we at The Atlantic Council, our policy shop, if you were to write the piece right now about what role the U.S., European countries, other invested countries should play going forward watching the election process thus far, what would be your answer to that? Is there a way to support the political process without appearing to back one horse over another? And how would you judge how we’re doing thus far?

Michele Dunne: Okay. On the importance of the Tahrir demonstrations, I mean, there was a fairly violent incident last night in Tahrir in which some conflicts developed between some of the demonstrators and street vendors and thugs. There are a lot of strange things that go on and sometimes it’s difficult to find the thread of the real story, because thugs hired by one party or another and sometimes by the government are an unfortunate feature of Egyptian politics and I think they were a part of what went on in Tahrir last night. There is an attempt, frankly, I think by the military to portray the demonstrators in Tahrir as violent and irresponsible and to try to drain public support from the demonstrations and to show them as sort of impeding the political transition and impeding the resumption of normal economic life and so forth in Egypt, so I think that’s a story that’s going to go on and on. And there are some of the more extreme demands that come out of Tahrir that people really don’t pay a lot of attention to, but in the main, I think, what the protestors in Tahrir have been calling for is something that almost all the political parties also call for, which is the hand-off authority, executive authority, from the SCAF to a civilian authority and sooner than later. So, I think that’s going to be a continuing theme. Okay. On the United States and Europe, I thought the statement that White House made last week supporting the democratic process and so forth was a good statement and I think that certainly the United States should continue to support the holding of free and fair elections, but also keeping this idea that this is just one step in the process, that the holding of Parliamentary elections, however good they may be, is only one step and that Egypt will not really be firmly in a democratic transition while the military holds executive authority. So, that’s one thing I think the United States and Europe should keep saying and make it clear that’s what the United States supports. Now, I think this is going to be really challenging for the United States and Europe is the Islamists make a very strong showing in this Parliamentary election and things seem to be going in that direction from early indications. A lot of people will be very nervous about that and so forth, so I think it’s going to require some sort of cool heads and steady hands, not to panic, when at the very first election, people might be elected with whom the United States and Europe don’t feel entirely comfortable. I also think that we’ve got to keep our eye on the ball in terms of the economic situation, because the recent indications are that the Egyptian economy is deteriorating fast and that Egypt could be headed toward a serious economic crisis in two or three months. So, I’m told the political process is on a firm footing. It’s not going to be possible to get the economy back on a firm footing and it’s also not going to be possible for the United States and Europe to give the kind of really supportive signals that they should give; for example, offering free trade arrangements and so forth. It’s not going to be possible to do that until Egypt is further along in this political process. These things are linked. But I do think the United States and Europe should be working very seriously right now on what kind of economic support we can give to Egypt and have all of that keyed up and ready for what we hope is the point where this political process is moving along and we can see clearly that there’s going to be a full transition to civilian rule.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from Peter Behr from Signet.

Peter Behr: Thank you for your wonderfully informative and truly excellent commentary initially and also your very thoughtful and enlightening response since then. One of the things I’m concerned about listening to you even more so is the pace at which relatively the economy will continue to deteriorate versus the pace of political reform, especially given the intransigence of the military with respect to its own direct and indirect interest and hold over the economy for which obviously reform is going to be a fundamental issue.

Michele Dunne: Yeah. I think, Peter, I agree with you. I’m concerned, too, that there’s a mismatch here that the economic situation might be deteriorating more quickly than the political transition is developing. However, I mean, it’s not as though this is a situation of anarchy. There is someone in control, which is the military authority and they have a Cabinet, they will have a new Cabinet, and they have some competent people; for example, the Minister of Finance, who has been giving them good advice. There is some things that I think the Egyptian military is going to need to get on top of immediately. I think they’re going to be doing some borrowing from international financial institutions. This is something they should have done six months ago and that they held off on and know they’re going to have to do under urgent conditions. They are also going to have to take a look at some of the things that are eating up their budget; for example, fuel subsidies, and see if they can at least start to take some emergency measures to trim them back, because what they are doing is right now they are spending a tremendous amount of money on fuel subsidies among other things. They are running down their foreign reserves rapidly. They’re borrowing domestically at a very high rate and all of these things could be leading them to a budget crisis. We’re already seeing a certain amount of capital flight; there could be a lot more of that. We’re seeing the Egyptian pound falling and it could fall a lot further and we could see an inflation and hyper inflation scenario developing and, of course, once you get to that point, it certainly has very scary political implications. So, I think that it’s going to be important to encourage the SCAF to listen more to the advice and be willing to act on the advice that they have been getting from the Finance Minister and from international financial institutions in order to get this whole picture under control so that the political process can complete itself over the next six months or so without an economic crisis taking place before that.

Peter Behr: Okay. So, let me ask a follow-up comment/question from you, please. The prospective of having an outcome where there’s basically very well organized Islamist parties coming out on top. The military keeping a lot of their privileges in terms of this was considered way back in the early spring, and the outcome at the end of the day for young people who are just a large portion of the country who’s still going to look at a rather bleak personal future economically.

Michele Dunne: All right. In terms of the military’s economic privileges, the military has extensive economic activities that they use to generate revenue for their own operations and I think that is a subject that up until now everyone in Egypt has agreed to put on a shelf that they simply can’t go and attack the military’s economic prerequisites at this stage or it could really lead to anarchy. So, that’s a subject that I think is going to need to be tackled by Egyptians at some point, but most people think that moment is not now. What the military tried to do in early November was to put in place or somehow get the political parties to agree to a set of super constitutional principles that would have to be written into the new constitution that would give the military freedom from any form of civilian oversight, including really by even the elected president or if there is one. I think the Islamist party fought that very vigorously and I think they will continue to do so and particularly so if they have a strong electoral backing. So, that’s going to be an issue. That doesn’t mean they’re going to go after the military’s economic prerequisites immediately, but what it means is they’re going to try to push things in the direction to at least the gradual development of Parliamentary oversight of the military, including its budget. So, that’s going to be something that Egyptians; Islamists or non-Islamists, it almost doesn’t matter, because I think secularists would have done the same thing. That’s going to be an issue that Egyptians are going to have to deal with in the coming months. In terms of employment and getting the economy back on its feet, I think you are right that if Islamists make a strong showing in the Parliament, that’s going to give a lot of investors and particularly outside investors pause. And we’re already seeing the Islamists Party, particularly the Freedom and Justice Party, which has a more pragmatic ideology than the Salafi Party, we’re seeing members of Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party come out and try to make reassuring statements; for example, about the fact that they’re in favor of continued tourism, they’re not going to ask tourists not to drink alcohol or not to wear bathing suits at the beach, and that sort of thing. But a lot of this is an unknown. These parties have not had to take these issues on seriously before and I do think there’s reason to be concerned. The ideology of the main party, the Freedom and Justice Party, economically actually is pretty much free market, so they are not anti-market. The question is whether their social agenda would conflict, particularly with tourism.

Peter Behr: Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from Rita Hauser from the Hauser Foundation.

Rita Hauser: Yes. Thanks again for your information. I’m interested in looking forward to the presidentials, which as I was Amr Moussa, when I saw him to my astonishment that they’re running not on party lines, but on individual lines, and that there are scores of people running for president. Do you see that continuing or will the demand that the president be selected somehow by the Parliament come to the fore? How do you see that evolving? And what kind of power do you see in the president?

Michele Dunne: Thank you, Rita. What I’m sure of is this: There will be direct popular election of the president. I don’t think, Egypt for a long time had basically the election of the president by the Parliament, which was then put to a popular referendum; they won’t be returning to that, I don’t think. There is in the current law for electing the president, which was modified after the removal of Mubarak, both political parties and independent candidates, can get on the ballot. It’s much, much, much easier to get on the presidential ballot than it used to be. And we probably will see a lot of candidates, but to be honest with you, there will only be a handful of meaningful candidates. Right now, there are probably three to four real contenders and so we’ll probably see a small field, half a dozen or fewer, real contenders for the presidency. In terms of the powers of the president, what Egypt has right now is they call it a "semi-presidential system." I think it’s more of a presidential system where the president has a great deal of power in the constitution. That is expected to be revised. Now, Egyptians are supposed to write a new constitution; that is in their temporary post-revolution constitution right now, but they must write and pass a new constitution. One of the questions has been: When are they going to do that? Before or after they elect the president? The SCAF wants to complete the Parliamentary elections, then write the new constitution, then elect the president. Almost all the other political parties say, "No, we want to have the Parliamentary elections, then the presidential election, then write a new constitution, because we don’t want the writing of a constitution to take place under military rule." So, that’s not really settled at this point. The SCAF has said now, "Yes, yes, we can have a presidential election by the end of June," but they also try to signal that so why don’t we pass a new constitution quickly in between when the Parliamentary elections take place and when the presidential election takes place. And I don’t see that personally as being a good idea to write and pass a new constitution in a month or two. I think that’s a troubling prospect, but we’ll see how this develops and it is inconvenient to elect a new president and then perhaps change that person’s powers. I also think that it’s possible you could elect the Parliament and a president early next year and then once you’ve written and passed a new constitution, say, a year later or whatever, they could hold all new elections. I mean, this is certainly happens in a lot of countries. So, we –

Rita Hauser: (overlapping) But this is all open.

Michele Dunne: This is all open as of now.

Rita Hauser: And subject to a lot of, I assume, horse trading and, depending on what happens in the results of the Parliamentary elections.

Michele Dunne: Yes, I think that’s right.

Rita Hauser: Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from Mohamed Metwally from Unitara. Sir, your line is open. Moving on, our next question comes from Ron Freeman from The Atlantic Council Board of Directors.

Ron Freeman: Michele, following up, do you see any sign of the old oligarchs behind this election? Madez, Camelle, the Suarez Family?

Michele Dunne: Yeah, thank you, Ron. Well, okay, so Naveed Suarez is a major player in this election, because he is the founder of the Free Egyptians Party, which is the major player in the so-called Egyptian block. And the Egyptian block is one of the three or four major players in this election and his funding, because of Naveed Suarez, his party is well-funded, the Egyptian block is well funded and one can see their posters and their TV campaign and so forth all over the place. They’re definitely present on the scene. The others that you mentioned, the big businessmen, no. At this point, I mean, most of them are unable to participate in the political process because they’re either under investigation or in some cases in prison already and I have not heard tell that they’ve tried to put their money behind one candidate or another. Now, there’s a separate question of other people from the former ruling party, the National Democratic Party, and so far I have not heard of them being that much of a major factor. Many of them are running in these elections. There have been several small parties founded out of members of the ex-NDP and some of these people are also running as independents for specific seats. Those people are likely to be more of a factor in the rural district. Those used to be the stronghold of the ruling party where major families aligned themselves with the NDP in the past and you’re going to see more of those rural districts in the second and third round of elections. So, I think it’s too early to say right now whether the ex-NDP are going to be a major presence in this Parliament or not.

Ron Freeman: Thanks, Michele.

Operator: Thank you. We now have a question from Danya Greenfield from the Rafik Hariri Center.

Danya Greenfield: Hi, Michele. Just following up on your last comment there, I’m wondering if you could give a little bit more background also on the role of Egyptians, the society of organizations, and their monitoring process. That’s the first question. And the second one is: Looking at further stages and rural district, I’m wondering if you would anticipate seeing a divide between the more urban educated, sophisticated elite that’s hooked in social media with the more rural elements that will be voting later and whether or not the sort of Tahrir use element versus the conservative rural elements will come to light more in those stages.

Michele Dunne: Thank you, Danya. Yeah, I’m now, the electoral commission did give election monitoring credentials to quite a few Egyptian domestic monitors as well as to international observers, so when I was out and about monitoring, I did run into Egyptians from civil society organizations with credentials who were monitoring. There were a lot of young people. They tend to be pretty well educated young people who volunteer for these civil, who work for these civil society organizations, and they were certainly out and about. I mean, maybe not in the numbers that one would like to see. I did not see civil society monitors in every single polling place. There were certainly far more representatives of candidates and political parties that were sitting there monitoring them. There were several society monitors. But the civil society monitors are out and about and they were vigilant, they were well prepared, they were well educated on the electoral vote, and we will see them putting their reports out as well. In the rural districts, yes, I think it’s a very different political dynamic than you see in the city. And a lot of rural districts and villages, in many cases, there will be one or two prominent personalities from a given city or town that will tend to steer voting, heavily influenced voting, in that place, and I don’t mean by coercion necessarily, but there will be either a prominent family or a prominent person who has done a lot for the community, whatever, built a hospital or something like that, who will endorse a certain candidate, mobilize people to vote a certain way. And people who are there, they’re not reading newspapers and they’re not watching political shows, they’re not as politically aware and they want to participate in the process, but they really don’t know for whom to vote, I think, are going to be influenced that way. We’ll see, but we may see in the rural districts, some things that we didn’t see so much of, I think, in this first round of voting. For example, bussing voters, employers rounding up their employees telling them how to vote and bussing them to the polls or that kind of thing that we’ve seen in the past. So, we’ll have to see. There was only voting in a few rural districts in this round. In one of them, in the Faiyum district, there was quite a bit of tension during the voting and that is a strong Islamist district.

Fred Kempe: Okay. Thank you very much, Michele. This is Fred Kempe again. And this has just been a super briefing and discussion, excellent questions. I found it actually fascinating having on-the-ground report on how this system is unfolding from the very local to some of your macro views. Particularly interesting, I found, were the economic aspects and some of the warning bells you put up there. For those on the line, The Atlantic Council is currently assembling there. So, let me close this call at this time. I want to thank those who came on. I want to thank Michele for taking time out of her busy work in Cairo. For those members, directors of The Atlantic Council, if you have other requests and things we ought to do with this call series, let me know. You’all know how to reach me. Otherwise, thank you for being on the line and, Michele, thank you so much for this briefing.

Michele Dunne: Thank you. See you back in Washington in a couple of days.

Fred Kempe: All right.

Operator: Thank you. This does conclude our teleconference for the day. Thank you, everyone, for joining us today and we hope you will join us again for another call in the near future.

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