By Diana Jean Schemo
With the future of Egypt in the balance, as protestors stormed Tahrir Square for the third straight day to demand the Military Council step down, a public opinion survey shows only one in four Egyptians favors a government ruled by Islamists.
Nevertheless, going into parliamentary elections–still scheduled to start next week–analysts say Islamist parties are the most organized political grouping in the country, and so likely to reap outsized gains at the polls.
The survey showed looming despair and dwindling hope for the future among Egyptians. In the months following the January 25 Revolution, 73 percent of Egyptians felt their country was moving in the right direction. Currently, only 31 percent do. And while anger over corruption in the Mubarak family largely fueled the January uprising, the concerns of Egyptians have shifted in the months since then.These days, people are worrying most of all about rising prices and unemployment, pollsters found.
The survey of 1,000 Egyptians, done by TNS Global Research, found 75 percent of Egyptians preferring a civil government to a theocracy. Only one percent favored continued military rule. But some analysts, citing an earlier poll by Gallup Abu Dhabi Research Center, warn the distinction is not strictly between secular vs. religious rule. The Gallup poll indicated that a majority of Egyptians prefer a “democracy informed by religious values, not a theocracy.”
Sweep to Foggy, with increasing uncertainty
Every week, more than $70 million leaves Afghanistan illegally, much of it to bank accounts in Dubai and other havens of secrecy, according to a recent report by the US Congressional Research Office.
Washington has pumped more than $50 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the last six years, for a variety of purposes. The report quotes one USAID official as saying that on some projects, up to 30 percent of U.S. taxpayer money is wasted on corruption. The money goes to corrupt local and national officials and border guards for protection, for illegal commissions, and for transport of goods through the country. The report blamed the U.S. military for poor oversight, and said U.S. officials frequently signed off on contracts even when promised goods were not delivered or work done was substandard.
Based on goods imported, Afghanistan should be collecting $2 billion a year in customs revenues, the report estimates. Instead, “$1 billion flows to the government and $1 billion is being diverted by local officials at the border.”
A thanks to Josh Elliott of Salon for flagging the study.
Sweep to Wartime Contracting in Afghanistan
An investigation into the US Justice Department’s handling of a corruption case against Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who died in a plane crash last year, has found pervasive misconduct, but investigators stopped short of recommending criminal charges.
Stevens was convicted in 2008 for failing to publicly disclose $250,000 in gifts he had received. A week later, he lost his bid for reelection.
The following year, the Justice Department admitted prosecutors had withheld evidence from Stevens’ defense team that could have exonerated him. The department withdrew the indictment against Stevens, effectively nullifying the senator’s conviction.