Nick Clegg: Democracy takes time, but a betrayal of Egypt's uprising would puncture the hopes of millions

The harsh and outdated Emergency Law must be lifted. There can be no stalling or backsliding

Share

Two months ago I met a group of Egyptian activists in London. Young, professional and politically savvy. Men and women proud to have been part of a real revolution, but anxious about the trials of transition. I am seeing them again today, but this time in Cairo. I want to know how far they believe Egypt has come because, from the outside, the picture looks worrying.

Millions of Egyptians are growing restive as uncertainty surrounds the election timetable. They fear their victory is slipping away. Conspiracy theories abound. There are real fears that the shift to a new, freer, fairer Egypt now hangs in the balance. That is not a situation to be ignored. Order and peaceful reform depend on the Egyptian people believing change is coming. The loss of tourist revenues and investment is a major problem for a country in desperate need of cash. And the international markets are watching closely. It will be catastrophic if they decide the country is in reverse.

It isn't just Egypt's future at stake. The Arab Spring has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for peace, prosperity and democracy on Europe's southern shores. But uncertainty in Egypt puts that prospect at risk. In different ways, in Yemen, in Syria, and across North Africa, the Near East and the Gulf, citizens are demanding greater freedoms. Failure in the region's biggest state would puncture their spirit, emboldening regimes who still believe they can sidestep reform. Continued instability would create fertile ground for extremists. And it would make it even harder for Israel and the Palestinians to find lasting peace.

There would be direct consequences for the UK, too. Last year we were responsible for a staggering 70 per cent of all foreign investment in Egypt – more than any other country. That means jobs here at home. And it is a market which has huge potential for growth, delivering further opportunities for UK businesses. But our businesses can only operate in a certain environment, governed by the rule of law. So the stakes are high. Of course, democracy takes time. But the window for change won't stay open forever. Egyptian citizens must have confidence in a clear road map to the democratic vision they have articulated. That means a credible plan for approval of Egypt's new constitution, as well as parliamentary and presidential elections – all of which should come sooner rather than later. The inquiry into recent violence is welcome, but the best way to defuse sectarian tensions is through clear human rights guarantees. The harsh and outdated Emergency Law must also be lifted, and basic security restored to the streets.

For our part, the UK will remain a firm friend to Egypt as it makes progress. The Coalition is making every effort to work closely with the interim government. We will keep pushing at the door, offering support and expertise, and making the expectations of the international community clear. And today I am meeting Egypt's leaders to press that message in person. We will continue to stand with all those who advocate democracy. Reform is an exhausting process. It can be easy to lose heart, and international solidarity provides a huge boost to morale. In practical terms, we're helping with the nuts and bolts. For example, through programmes to mentor female candidates for the new parliament; advice networks for fledgling political parties; and through efforts, led by organisations including the BBC, to ensure fair election coverage by the state media. Taken together, these steps help lay the ground for fair and plural politics. Finally, we're helping Egypt to rebuild its economy. Years of corruption and cronyism have enriched a small elite. The informal economy has swelled. But, in the long-term it is no substitute for a properly regulated economy. Workers need proper protections, and the state needs tax receipts too.

So the international community has made clear that, as Egypt makes the journey to democracy, we are ready to provide the financial assistance needed for sustainable, inclusive growth. Up to $38bn is available to the region through the international financial institutions, and the UK will play its part. We won't turn our back on Egypt. We recognise that revolutions are only ever the beginning. But there can be no stalling and no backsliding. There is too much at stake, and there is no time to waste.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre Scho...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£17900 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic Marketing Assis...

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, arrives with his son Prince George at the Lindo Wing to visit his wife and newborn daughter at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, west London, Britain, 02 May 2015  

Prince George's £18,000 birthday gift speaks volumes about Britain's widening wealth inequality

Olivia Acland
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'