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Graham: Egyptian Election Timeline May Be Too Rushed

Updated: 12:31 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham expressed concern Sunday about upcoming elections in Egypt, saying the Muslim Brotherhood may have an unfair advantage if voting happens too soon.

The South Carolina Republican’s comments came after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday and the Egyptian military suspended the constitution Sunday, announcing that a transitional government will rule for six months. That may not be enough time for political parties to form after Mubarak’s 30-year rule, Graham said from Greenville, S.C.,  on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“There really is no independent judiciary, there are no independent parties,” the member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said. “I worry that we will rush to an election … [and] the Muslim Brotherhood will have a disproportionate effect.”

Sen. John McCain, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, struck a more optimistic tone on CBS’ “Face the Nation” but also urged caution going forward.
“This revolution is a direct repudiation of al-Qaida, which believes that the only way you bring about change is through violence,” the Arizona Republican said. “We need to get a transition government that really understands that elections are not the answer. … It is the apparatus, it is the modality, it is the education of voters. It is all of the things that go to a free and fair election.”

Graham also criticized Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for saying last week that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely secular. Clapper’s office clarified to ABC News last week that the Muslim Brotherhood has made efforts to work within a largely secular political system under Mubarak, but the organization itself is not secular.

“I worry about our own intelligence services understanding what the heck is going on,” Graham said, adding, “We know what the people are against in Egypt. We don’t yet know what they’re for.”

Speaker John Boehner told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the United States needs to assess why the events in Egypt took the intelligence community by surprise. Still, the Ohio Republican would not say he was disappointed by the nation’s intelligence. He also said he thought that Obama handled the “very difficult situation” of the political unrest in Egypt “about as well as it could be handled.”

Graham urged Egyptian protesters to move slowly. As protests spread across the Middle East, he also affirmed the United States’ commitments to Israel and democracy in the region.

“At the end of the day, people in Jordan and Saudi Arabia need to get the message from Tunisia and Egypt, that you have to give your people more say and a voice in society,” he said.

McCain said “these winds of change” also carry warnings for the leaders of Russia and China.
“I would be a little less secure if I was President Hu [Jintao] deciding the fate of 1.3 billion people,” he said of China’s leader. “I don’t think this is confined to the Middle East, just as we believe human rights are universal.”
As for America’s role, McCain said Egyptians “want us to assist, they don’t want us to dictate.”

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