The Egyptian military won’t ignore its citizens’ demands for open elections, even if the military has an interest in keeping power, former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday at a University of Texas lecture.
It was the first time Carter has spoken publicly about recent developments in the Middle East, including the uprising in Egypt that led to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Since the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, citizens in several other countries in the region – including Iran, Libya and Bahrain – also have staged protests in hopes of creating revolutions, demanding dramatic changes to government.
“My guess is the (Egyptian) military leaders don’t want to give up their political influence or power,” Carter said. But the military has seen what the demonstrators have done and will most likely submit to their demands, he said.
“The demonstrators will not accept anything less than honest, fair and open elections,” he said, adding that his foundation, the Carter Center, will be as “involved as possible” in bringing about successful Egyptian elections in September.
Carter, the 39th president, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work on international affairs and his efforts to promote peace, democracy and economic development in other countries.
The former president and Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library at UT, talked about the Middle East in front of an audience of about 1,000. Carter also discussed his time as president, current events in America and “White House Diary,” his most recent book.
The free tickets for the event evaporated shortly after they became available Feb. 1; half of the tickets were offered exclusively to students, said Anne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the library.
Carter’s visit was part of the Harry Middleton Lecture Series, an endowed lectureship that Lady Bird Johnson established in 1994 to draw high-caliber speakers to the library. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke in November, and other speakers have included journalist Tom Brokaw, UT physicist Steven Weinberg and actor Michael York.
This year’s speakers also will include actor Robert Redford, Watergate-busting journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Soon after he was picked as director, Updegrove said one of his ideas for raising the library’s profile was to bring in all the living former presidents – Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – for speeches.
Students listened and at times laughed Tuesday evening at Carter’s recollections.
Updegrove, who characterized Carter as the president most associated with the Middle East, having helped to broker a peace accord between Egypt and Israel in 1978, asked the former president how the United States should view the Muslim Brotherhood, an influential group in Egypt that has ties to Hezbollah and may influence Egypt in the future.
“I think the Muslim Brotherhood is not anything to be afraid of in the upcoming (Egyptian) political situation and the evolution I see as most likely,” Carter said. “They will be subsumed in the overwhelming demonstration of desire for freedom and true democracy.”