Ex-White House advisor: US has no role in picking Egypt’s president

Washington–The United States has never involved itself in determining who Egypt’s president will be, a former White House advisor has said.

“Choosing the next [Egyptian] president is a decision entirely in the hands of the Egyptian people,” said Gamal Helal, who served as Middle East advisor to five US presidents over 22 years.

Helal, an Egyptian-born US citizen, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Washington is “only interested in Egypt’s political stability, which in turn affects the stability of the entire region.”

Helal, who joined the US administration when it was headed by former president Ronald Reagan, dismissed any suggestions that Washington has ever played a role in choosing Egypt’s presidents–a widely-held belief among Egyptian opposition circles.

“Anybody who thinks the US has influenced who would rule Egypt is mistaken,” said Helal.

Helal’s remarks come at a time when many Egyptian voices have been voicing concern that Washington will greatly influence the mechanisms through which the next president will be selected.

Aside from the fact that Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US aid since the 1970s, some Egyptians also believe that Cairo plays a significant role in mediating Middle East peace efforts.

In January, the chairman of the foreign relations committee at the Egyptian parliament, Mostafa el-Feki, stirred a huge controversy when he told Al-Masry Al-Youm that “US approval of–and Israel’s non-objection to–Egypt’s next president are necessary.” Feki’s remarks were particularly sensitive as he served as an information secretary to President Hosni Mubarak in the 1980s.

And in March, the leader of Egypt’s pro-reform National Association for Change Mohamed ElBaradei warned that Western governments risk creating a new generation of Islamist extremists if they continue to support repressive regimes in the Middle East. 

“There is a need for re-evaluation … the idea that the only alternative to authoritarian regimes is Osama Bin Laden and co is a fake one, yet continuation of current policies will make that prophecy come true,” said ElBaradei in an interview with British newspaper the Guardian. ElBaradei has been widely touted as the most serious contender to Mubarak in the upcoming presidential elections.

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