In elections over the weekend, Greece bought itself some badly needed time while Egypt bought itself trouble it really didn't need after the past year's turmoil.

The Greeks voted to continue in office the conservative New Democratic Party and its coalition partners, the same elected officials who agreed to the wildly unpopular European Union bailout with its onerous austerity measures.

That vote, for the time being at least, will keep Greece in the eurozone, forestalling what could have been a financially destabilizing partial collapse of the 17-nation common currency union.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the vote would not change the terms of the bailout, but her finance and foreign ministers indicated there could be "adjustments" to make the bailout work. The consensus in Europe seemed to be the deal could be renegotiated.

The leftist Syriza party came in second. Whether it was bluster or blackmail, Syriza had said it might pull out of the eurozone and revert to the drachma, an economic disaster for Greece and a move likely to push most of Europe into recession.

Greece got off lightly compared to Egypt, whose military leaders mounted a coup in all but name. Egypt's generals had taken control after then-President Hosni Mubarak resigned -- in the wake of massive demonstrations early last year -- but pledged to hand over government control to civilians elected in this month's elections.

The generals betrayed the promise of the Tahrir Square demonstrations for democracy. Twenty minutes after the polls closed Sunday night, when it became clear the conservative Muslim Brotherhood's candidate would win the presidency, the generals issued a draconian decree, effectively reducing the president to an advisory role. The president has no say over the military or its budget and the military reserves for itself the right to declare war.

And last Thursday, Egypt's high court effectively dissolved the lower house of parliament on the grounds that a third of its members, principally Muslim Brotherhood candidates, were elected illegally.

The military said it would empower a panel to draft a new constitution and, after the constitution is put to a referendum, hold new parliamentary and presidential elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed with various degrees of intensity since its founding in 1928 and barred from any meaningful role in Egypt's political life.

Having the Muslim Brotherhood legitimately and honestly gain a share of power, only to have it snatched away by military officials complicit in the now-discredited Mubarak government, is likely to bring demonstrators back into the streets.

The Greek and Egyptian elections offered no solutions, only delays. It may not seem that way to the Greeks, but they may be the lucky ones.

Dale McFeatters is a columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington.


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