Curbing strikes main challenge for Egypt government

The first thing that Egyptian authorities should do to restore stability in the country is to put an end to strikes that have doubled the economic damage caused by the revolution, Egyptian Ambassador to Russia Alaa El Hadidi said on Wednesday.

“I think that the main challenge facing the Egyptian interim government is not the holding of elections, but the break-up of strikes,” El Hadidi said during his speech at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies.

After Hosni Mubarak was ousted as the country’s president in the February uprising, the scale of corruption in the country was revealed to significantly exceed the figures that had been announced by Mubarak’s government, he said.

“The people have discovered that the country is not poor… If we were previously talking about millions of dollars that had been moved abroad, after the revolution, we discovered that this was rather hundreds of billions of dollars,” the ambassador said.

According to El Hadidi, only two institutions – the Egyptian Army and the Foreign Ministry – have not been involved in any strikes since Mubarak’s ouster. The main demands of those staging strikes across Egypt include a multifold increase in salaries and improvement in living standards, the ambassador said.

El Hadidi described the referendum on constitutional amendments held in Egypt in mid-March as an important move in the country’s history. This was the first time in decades when the Egyptian people were allowed to express their opinion freely, he said, adding that “no one” was challenging the referendum results.

“In September, we will hold parliamentary elections, and I am sure that they will be as civilized as the referendum was,” he said.

“We are now learning to hold dialogue, to listen to each other… This is what democracy is.”

The constitutional amendments approved in the referendum are officially designed to strengthen the role of the country’s parliament and political parties, improve election monitoring, and combat terrorism. The Egyptian opposition, however, has criticized the amendments, saying that they would result in abuses by security services.

Official reports said turnout at the referendum exceeded 27%, with about 76% of the voters expressing their support for the amendments. But a number of opposition parties and human rights groups have challenged the figures, saying that turnout at some polling stations was a mere 3-5%. The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s major opposition movement, has said the actual turnout was under 10%.

El Hadidi has also expressed confidence that life in Egypt will change dramatically for the better in a few years after the elections, adding that the democratic process in Egypt will affect “the entire appearance of the Middle East.”

The new Egyptian authorities are also likely to review the country’s foreign policy while maintaining their commitment to Egypt’s international agreements, he added.

MOSCOW, March 30 (RIA Novosti) 

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