Former President George W. Bush said he believed democracy would “ultimately take hold” in Egypt, amid a political crisis pitting that country’s military against elected President Mohamed Morsi.
“I believe democracy will ultimately take hold,” Bush said in an interview with ABC News aired on Tuesday. “I hope that people who live in comfortable nations are helping some of these young Egyptians understand how to build political parties and understand how to claim their rightful place in the political process."
“I mean, look at our own country, took a hundred years to get rid of slavery. Democracy requires a patient hand. Democracy requires the building of civil society,” he added.
Egypt has been rocked by days of violent protests from opponents of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader elected president last year, calling for him to step down.
Egypt’s military leaders on Monday threatened to intervene in the crisis if Morsi and the opposition could not reach an accord by Wednesday.
Morsi has said he would not leave office, calling himself the “guardian of democracy.”
President Obama on Tuesday spoke with Morsi, urging him to be “responsive” to protestors’ demands, while also cautioning against a military coup. But the crisis has put the administration in a difficult spot, as it seeks to avoid embroiling itself in the political fight.
The State Department on Wednesday denied reports that Obama had pressed Morsi to call early elections.
“The current leaders campaigned on a platform, and now the Egyptian people are trying to hold them to account,” Bush said.
Bush’s interview was conducted in Tanzania. The former president is in Africa to dedicate a women’s health center. On Tuesday he met with President Obama, who travelled through the continent on a weeklong trip. The two attended a wreath laying ceremony for victims of the 1998 embassy bombing in Tanzania.
Bush said the two did not discuss policy during their brief meeting.
“We just chatted about his trip,” said Bush.