Gates says Egypt political parties need time

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 23, 2011 1:03 PM
Gates says Egypt political parties need time

CAIRO (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday Egyptians needed time to develop political parties but said he would not "second-guess" Egypt's military rulers on the timeline they have set for elections.

Some Egyptians have criticized the timetable as too tight and are worried that only the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and remnants of deposed President Hosni Mubarak's party have the capacity and experience to do well.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier this month that Washington did not have an opinion on the election schedule charted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to which Mubarak handed power on February 11.

Gates, on a visit to Cairo, said: "I'm absolutely not going to second-guess either the supreme council or the interim government."

But he added: "We believe it is important to allow those new elements who have become active in Egyptian politics, some of them for the first time, to have the time to develop political parties and to develop organization and structure."

The military has signaled that legislative elections could happen as soon as September, with a presidential election after that.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, has said it will seek neither a parliamentary majority or the presidency in the coming elections so that other parties have the chance to organize.

The group was banned under Mubarak but has moved to the heart of public life since he was toppled.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; writing by Tom Perry; editing by Philippa Fletcher)