The United States would be “satisfied” if fair parliamentary elections in Egypt produced a Muslim Brotherhood victory, President Barack Obama’s pointman for democratic transitions in the Middle East said Friday.
“I think the answer is yes, I think we will be satisfied, if it is a free and fair election,” the newly appointed special coordinator for Middle East transitions, William Taylor, said when asked about what the U.S. reaction would be if the Islamist party comes out ahead in elections starting this month.
“What we need to do is judge people and parties and movements on what they do, not what they're called,” Taylor told a forum at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think-tank.
In June Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington had been in “limited contacts” with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of an effort to adjust to Egypt’s political upheaval.
But the talks drew ire from some Republican U.S. lawmakers who expressed concern that the Brotherhood would seek to establish Sharia (Islamic law) in Egypt and North Africa.
The region has seen unprecedented change this year in the “Arab spring” movement, notably in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia where longstanding dictatorships were toppled, in large part by people’s revolutions.
“These revolutions, this movement toward democracy has the ability to repudiate the terrorist narrative,” Taylor said.
But Cairo was plunged into turmoil this week when the military-controlled transitional government announced plans to take greater control of the formation of a new Egyptian constitution.
“I do see it as a problem,” Taylor, who visited Cairo last week and met with several military leaders, warned about a possible renewed military power grab in Egypt, adding that such a move would “lead to a bad place -- authoritarian again.”
Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and other smaller Islamist parties threatened to bring a million protesters into the streets in opposition of the plan.
Taylor said that while he did not meet Muslim Brotherhood officials in Cairo, “I would have,” given the opportunity.
“As long as parties, entities do not espouse or conduct violence, we’ll talk to them.”
Taylor made broad comparisons between the Brotherhood and the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia that took the largest number of seats in that country's recent election and is now forming a coalition.
“This is something that we are used to, and should not be afraid of. We should deal with them,” he said of Islamist parties that come to power.