In Other Parts of the World: A Brief Disucssion on Egypt

To those who are not so sure what in seven hells is going on in Egypt, Ezra Klein from Washington Post provides a good and brief discussion on Egypt with Shadi Hamid, director of research from the Brookings Doha Centre, an expert on Middle East politics. I will lift what I deem important and post them below.

The political problem:

…part of the problem is that you have these newly elected Islamist elites who come in at the top of the state institutions. But these institutions are made up of old-school state bureaucrats who are hostile to Islamist regimes and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is why you don’t want to be president after a revolution that doesn’t push out the old regime. In that way, 2011 wasn’t a full revolution because many of the old elements of the order stayed in place. The result was that the Brotherhood was technically in power but it couldn’t wield control over the state. That led to a kind of governing failure the Brotherhood simply wasn’t prepared for.

…also the identity issue at the elite level…Many liberals felt the Brotherhood was attacking Egypt’s core identity. That’s where a lot of the hatred arose. You can compromise on how to run the economy… It’s not the kind of thing where you can negotiate what the role of religion should be…there was a fear the Brotherhood was going to use its power to solidify control over state institutions over time…

On the military intervention:

…Morsi was removed by force, with armed guards taking him away… So this is a textbook military coup. Some Egyptians don’t see it that way, because the military has a lot of popular support right now. But historically military coups often do have popular support. And that’s very frightening. When you mix this nationalism and populism, and adoration of the army, you get a very explosive mix.

Legitimacy crisis:

…Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood refuse to back down. They continue to claim Morsi is the legitimate president…the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups saying they will not surrender until Morsi is reinstated. So we have a fundamental crisis of legitimacy where one part of the country considers Morsi to be the legitimate head of state and the other part considers the coup legitimate and Morsi’s term over.

On popular support:

Part of the problem in Egyptian politics is everyone claims their own numbers so it becomes a war of crowds. The anti-Morsi group claims 33 million people protested last week, which defies what we know of physical spaces. A pro-Morsi speaker said their protests were 30 million strong. This is a byproduct of a failed political process. It’s a war of who can amass the most people in support of their cause and impose their will on the other.

The future:

…there are two options. First is the Algeria or eradication scenario, in which the military and old-regime elements simply try to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s the repression option. Then you have the referendum option. I don’t know how you would do it, exactly. The military has dug in so deep to its position, and it’s already calling the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, so I don’t know if this is realistic. But typically what you’d do is have some vote where both sides agree to abide by the will of the people.

At least in the near term, though, I think we could just be in a continuation of this low-level civil conflict, this war of attrition between the two sides

One thing is obvious: political change is not easy. It is one thing  to stand up and resist an oppressive regime, and it is another to end the chaos orderly and govern effectively. Any resistance movement must think how future events would unfold and how to safeguard a democratic political system. If the liberal, democratic elements cannot obtain and maintain political power, at least in the immediate years after the  big change, the old elements will take refuge in the socioeconomic strife following the revolution and come back to haunt the society with a vengeance. Democracy is never just about election.

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2 Responses to In Other Parts of the World: A Brief Disucssion on Egypt

  1. Bill 說道:

    Democracy is never just about election. Democracy is never just embellished slogans. Democracy is more than using a loud hailer to shout and bark but devoid of tactics and strategy. Democracy is more than rhetoric without substance.

    • 山中 說道:

      True. Even when a popular movement ended a regime with violent or nonviolent means, stabilizing the society and govern effectively are still imperative. We might praise India being the largest democratic country in the world, but the quality of life to most in India is still wanting, especially during its early years; it suffered famines, violent religious conflicts, and discrimination against women, to the last of which, as one could legitimately argue, did Gandhi contribute greatly. Focusing only on democratic election diverts much needed attentions to these issues. Democracy is important, but it takes substance to make it effective.


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