CAIRO — Egypt’s military rulers want to hand over powers to an elected government “as soon as possible,” US Senator John McCain said after talks on Sunday with the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Power was transferred to the armed forces by former president Hosni Mubarak upon his ouster on February 11 after mass protests against his 30-year rule.
“The field marshal again indicated his absolute commitment to a transition to a civilian government at the earliest possible time after the elections have taken place,” McCain told reporters in Cairo.
The Republican senator was speaking after meeting Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi who heads the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
John Kerry, a Democratic senator and one-time US presidential candidate, who took part in the talks, said: “I think they (the military) are very anxious to get out of the business of governing and they want to go back to doing what they were doing.
“They want a civilian government to take over the responsibilities.”
The military council has repeatedly pledged to restore power to a civilian government after legislative elections due in September and a presidential vote in November.
But earlier this month Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, quoted by the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, said delaying a September parliamentary election would give parties more time to prepare.
“Postponing the election would give the chance for a larger number of new political parties to develop,” Sharaf said.
His comments come at a time of mounting calls by liberal and secular groups to delay the election until a new constitution is drafted amid fears that early polls could benefit Islamists.
Some secular and liberal opposition groups, however, want to push ahead with elections to have the ruling military council — which they see as an extension of the old regime — out of power as soon as possible.
The two US senators also said they had recommended that Tantawi allow international observers for the elections.
“He clearly stated that as they move forward with the process of elections that they would give that recommendation serious consideration,” McCain said.
In the Mubarak era, such recommendations were systematically ignored.
McCain and Kerry are in Cairo at the head of a delegation of US businessman to discuss foreign investment in Egypt, which along with Tunisia pioneered the “Arab spring” sweeping the region.
“The failure or success of the revolution in this part of the Arab world will be directly related to the ability to provide investment and jobs for the Egyptian people,” McCain said.