Cairo — President Barack Obama has dramatically cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt, a shift that could affect everything from anti-corruption programs to the monitoring of elections.
Washington’s cuts over the past year — amounting to around 50 percent — have drawn accusations that the Obama administration is easing off reform pressure on the autocratic government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to ensure its support on Mideast policy, including the peace process with Israel.
“Obama wants change that won’t make the Egyptian government angry,” said Ahmed Samih, head of a Cairo-based organization that in 2005 used U.S. funds to monitor parliament elections. “And in the Egyptian context, that means there will be no change.”
The administration has made similar cuts in democracy aid to Jordan, another U.S. ally.
The policy in part reflects a change in focus, with more development and economic aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It also reflects how Obama has moved away from his predecessor George W. Bush’s aggressive push to democratize the regimes of the Middle East.
Egypt was the centerpiece of the Bush policy, straining U.S. ties with Mubarak.