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Democracy in Egypt: Key Factors Research Paper


Introduction

Egypt is considered to be one of the Middle Eastern intellectual and cultural leaders. This became a reality due to the country’s relationship with the West and Napoleon’s invasion. In 1979, Anwar Sadat decided to make peace with Israel (Albrecht & Bishara 2011). This arrangement ended up in Arab League banishing Egypt until the late 1980s. Moreover, in 1981, Sadat was murdered by Islamic radicals because he was too active trying to curb their actions. Hosni Mubarak, the new President of Egypt, employed a pacifying tactic, but Islamic extremists went on with their campaigns (Tessler, Jamal & Robbins 2012). They chose tourists and resort areas as the targets of their attacks and started to pursue the Christians of Egypt enthusiastically. Even though Mubarak’s rule was signified by economic growth and overall stability, his reign is considered to be suppressive (Schlumberger & Matzke 2012). Egypt’s law enforcement agency became well-known for its violence, and acts of bribery were common.

The current paper is designed to define if there is democracy in Egypt and what are the key factors that undermine its quality. The main objective of this study is to review relevant literature and single out the premises of the collapse of democracy in Egypt. The paper is divided into three parts. The first part concentrates on the theoretical background of democracy and explains the key principles and its advantages and disadvantages for the government. The second part revolves around the historical background of democracy in Egypt. The third part analyses the factors that undermine the quality of democracy in Egypt and is followed by a conclusion based on the studied evidence.

Theoretical framework

The current section of the paper is intended to provide the reader with an in-depth analysis of the notion of democracy. This step is necessary to address the issues connected to democracy in Egypt in a thorough manner. The author reviews the key principles, advantages, and disadvantages of democracy with the intention of applying those principles to Egypt and evaluating the probable outcomes.

Democracy: definition and implications

The concept of democracy is rooted in the distant past as it originated in ancient Greece almost 2,500 years ago. While the definition of democracy states that it is up to the citizens when it comes to leading the country, it overlooks important ideas inherent in the democratic state in other countries worldwide (Jones-Parry et al. 2011). Basically, people believe in the proficiency of a democratic government because they are looking for protection and advancement of their civil rights, safeties, and wellbeing. The key demand for democracy is the participation of every citizen in the creation of a political community’s autonomy. Therefore, the concept of democracy is based on the political freedom of the country’s residents. The modern democracy framework consists of three major parts – liberalism, constitutionalism, and democracy. These three elements are crucial for the creation of a genuinely democratic state (Elstub 2012).

Democracy: key principles

The key principle that is at the origin of democracy is citizen participation. It is the main indicator of democracy in a country. Moreover, the participation of citizens in the creation and maintenance of democracy is their duty and not just a civil right. Citizen participation means being involved in numerous activities including voting in elections, discussing issues, becoming members of various associations, and even participating in demonstrations and protests (Holden 2013). It is obvious that democracy depends on the citizens’ participation in the life of the state. Another important principle of democracy is equality. In other words, this means that citizens of any given democratic country are equal. This basically means that every citizen has the right to be valued appropriately and the right to live in freedom. The idea of equality states that there should be no discrimination on the basis of the citizen’s race, religious conviction, cultural group, sex, or sexual orientation (Ishiyama 2012). The right to have different personalities and various freedoms is the ultimate representation of democracy in a country. Another principle that should be inherent in a democratic state is political tolerance. This means that even the majority habitually rules the society, the rights and freedoms of the minority should be respected and protected. The minorities should be able to speak up and not be afraid of being rejected. Nonetheless, in most cases, they are seen as antagonists because of the ideas that might be dissimilar to the ideas of the majority.

When it comes to the officials, one of the most important principles of democracy is accountability. They should be responsible for the decisions they make and the people they were elected by. This means that the decisions should be made in favor of the citizens. The next principle which is directly connected to accountability is transparency. The idea of this principle is that citizens should know what goes on in the country. Citizens should have the right to attend administrative meetings, and the government should be transparent in terms of explaining why certain decisions are made (El Medni 2012). Another clear of democracy is the act of systematic, unrestricted, and impartial elections. It is up to the citizens to choose the officials that would represent the country. Democracy claims that these designated representatives should be dealt with in a free and reasonable way (E.g., choosing them or removing them from the office). Pressure and dishonesty are not consistent with the ideology of democracy (Almond & Verba 2013). Moreover, there should be no artificially created obstacles that would interfere with the voting process. Another key principle of democracy is that people must have economic freedom. This means that the citizens are allowed to run their own businesses or choose where they want to work without any obstacles. The role of the government in the economy is controversial, but it is a common statement that the government should not be in full control of the economy (Schumpeter 2013). Nonetheless, there is an opinion among the experts that the economy should be controlled in the countries that suffered from past discrimination and unfair wealth allocation. Another principle that is worth mentioning is respect for human rights. The democratic state should guarantee the safety of the citizens’ rights. Primarily, democracy should accentuate the value of a human being to the country.

Democracy: upsides and downsides

The main upsides of democracy include protection of the citizens’ interests, promotion of equality, administrational responsibility, cultivation of great citizens, and openness to change. The protection that the government provides for the country’s citizens is reflected in their freedom of speech, ability to participate in elections, and the decision-making process that has an impact on the society and country (Agrama 2012). The protection of interests is a safety measure intended to keep out of trouble those citizens who do not agree with common decisions. As has been stated earlier, the whole definition of democracy is based on equality. Therefore, the advantage of the promotion of equality consists in the fact that citizens are free to choose who to side with and the law guarantees that they will not be judged on the basis of their choices (unless those choices are illegal). When we speak about the stability and accountability of the government, democracy should be praised for its effectiveness, steadfastness, and constancy (Sakbani 2011). In a democratic state, the government leads the country in an unprejudiced manner which presupposes the necessary stability and gives the citizens sense of confidence. In this case, the key advantage of democracy is that citizens are able to impact the way that the decisions are made. Moreover, democracy is one of the best instruments that help to create a perfect setting for personal improvement, development of good habits, and cultivation of character (Jamal 2012). If the country is looking for good citizenship, democracy should be the very first choice. Democracy is one of the best instruments available to the government that might help to address the issue of what is good and what is bad. Another important aspect is the ability to implement changes without aggression or compulsion. This is the main reason why citizens of democratic countries are involved in the process of implementing changes and maintaining the current state of affairs.

Even though there are numerous advantages, democracy is not a flawless representation of a country and its citizens. On the contrary, it might cause several adverse outcomes that would affect both the government and citizens. First of all, democracy may lead to the mismanagement of monetary resources and time (Lust 2011). This includes the process of elaborating and passing laws and major expenditures that the government spends throughout the election process. Moreover, it may happen that the government is led by irresponsible leaders who spend the resources of the government in order to achieve their own objectives instead of helping the country grow. Sometimes, even citizens themselves cause major damage to the country by making the wrong choice (Jamshidi 2014). In this case, the issue lies in the fact that not all citizens are aware of the political situation in the country. This may end up in inaccurate and unreasonable conclusions. Another drawback of democracy is that it pays more attention to quantity instead of quality when it comes to the services it provides to citizens (Abdelrahman 2013). Moreover, there is a perception that no equality exists under this political system despite its numerous advantages that have been proven in theory.

Historical background

It is obvious that Egypt is not a democratic country despite the removal of Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled the country for more than thirty years (Stein 2012). For most of the world, Egypt tends to be seen as a country impacted by the military dictatorship, but the military states that it will return authority to non-combatant political figures at the moment when the country is stable enough. In 2011, Mubarak’s rule ended (Dalacoura 2012). This happened due to the growing tension among the population of Egypt which turned into numerous protests. On a slightly bigger scale, those protests were a reflection of the situation in Tunisia. The hopes of the protesters to achieve democracy in Egypt were perceived as ambiguous (Martini & Taylor 2011). This happened because the post-revolutionary government was split by the influence of Islamic extremists on the one hand and the conciliatory/ liberal forces on the other (nonetheless, in this case, one should also consider military forces as well). As a result, the stability of the situation in Egypt was shaken by continuing aggressive rebellions (Bush 2011). Then there was a period of short-term military rule. In 2012, Mohammed Morsi, a member of Muslim brotherhood, won the elections. But then Egypt was taken over by another wave of protests (Wickham 2011). Numerous Egyptian liberals and Christian leaders were anxious about the events that were triggered by the government’s decisions. The military supported the demonstrators and expelled Morsi. In turn, they also aggressively suppressed the protest rallies held by the Muslim brotherhood (Tadros 2012). The military administration has suspended the provocative Constitution passed in 2012 by a popular vote (Masoud 2011). They also managed to disband the last governmental organization in Egypt – the parliament. The authority is now possessed by the short-term cabinet, but all important decisions are indisputably made by the army (led by Abdul Fattah al-Sisi), representatives that stayed after Mubarak left, and security chiefs (Rutherford 2012). Therefore, the current situation proves that Sisi became the ruler of Egypt. The state-run mass media has supported Sisi in a way similar to what could have been witnessed during Mubarak’s rule. The criticism of the new ruler has been hushed all over the country. Even though Sisi’s followers believe that the militant approach alienates Egypt from the Islamist tyranny, the country’s future appears to be quite ambiguous (similar to what happened in 2011 after Mubarak). The state apparatus of Egypt has been filled with military members since the 1950s (Brown 2011). Before 2012, all three presidents – Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak – came from the military and were able to build successive authoritarian governments. Consequently, the military was always at the forefront of the political and financial life of Egypt. It was not surprising that even ordinary Egyptians respected the military. Taking this into consideration after Mubarak’s takeover, the regime took the reins and initiated the changeover process, becoming the pursuivants of the 2011 revolt (Tadros 2013).

Analysis

As it soon became evident, the democratic experiment in Egypt was not successful. It happened due to the fact that the military did not want to give up on the authority. Parliamentary elections won by Morsi and Muslim brotherhood ended up in a deal with the military (Saikal 2011). It was stated that the generals should have been taken out from daily government dealings in return for keeping a critical say in security policy and all events connected to state safety. But Morsi seemed to bring volatility to the country. He almost unleashed a hazardous civil conflict between nonspiritual and Islamist community layers. This situation made the military think that civilian officials spoiled the changeover process (Snider & Faris 2011). The military took away the authority in 2013, by removing Morsi from the rule in a community-supported rebellion. The military arrested the important figures of the President’s political party and removed provocateurs from power. The majority of the Egyptian community supported the military. This happened due to the fact that they were drained by uncertainty and fiscal breakdown. Moreover, Egyptian citizens were discontented by the ineffectiveness of the current regime (Hamid 2011).

After reviewing the literature and all the premises and consequences of the implementation of democracy in Egypt, the author pointed out several factors which, to their mind, were the most influential disruptors of this political regime. First, there is a myriad of practical allegations that would have to be reckoned with even before Egypt could run repeat elections (Reynaert 2015). These allegations include the registration of parties and the formation of a reliable, autonomous group of individuals to supervise the election procedure. Previously, the Egyptian judges were responsible for it, but ultimately the registration and formation duties were given to the Interior Ministry. This is not enough to make progress. The citizens of Egypt – as well as the military and any antagonist frontrunners who actively participate in the debates concerning the new government – will be required to proceed in compliance with the legal norms as well (Kedourie 2012). Another factor undermining the democratic regime in Egypt is the inability to hold fair presidential elections. Even though reforming it would be expensive, overlooking it would generate even more risks.

Another factor is the disagreement between the rival political parties. In order to get rid of this, the major Egyptian political parties and shareholders should negotiate and find the middle ground. In this case, the Turkish governmental model would be one of the models that the Egyptian government would want to implement. Turkey suffered from nonstop riots for more than 50 years but now has a strong democratic organization running the country. For Egypt, the transition to democracy from a military government should not take a lot of time. But there are also some indisputable advantages that do not find reflection in other Islamic countries (Drevon 2014). For instance, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the transfer to democracy is unequivocally home-based and is not the outcome of the military raid. Egypt will be able to build up its democratic regime in a different way. The risk in democratic changeovers is that the country would eventually collapse, but that is not going to occur in Egypt due to a high level of national identity (Petras 2012). The fact is, Egypt may come through numerous core dissections, but it would not be an appropriate territory for the sectarianism that has flooded Iraq. After the era of Mubarak, Egypt came under the influence of religious political parties due to the fact that the Muslim brotherhood had been the main political rival for Mubarak’s regime for several decades (Moghadam 2013). But it is turned out to be impossible to estimate how robust political sustenance for Islamist political parties like the Muslim brotherhood will be. From the looks of things, impartial elections are the one event that will support the citizens of Egypt and trigger the beginning of the next era.

It is interesting that nowadays both conventional Islamists and their nonspiritual rivals commonly come to an agreement that Egypt should be ruled by a democratic, politically-aware regime, with a government chosen by means of unrestricted and impartial elections. But there is little hope that Egypt would be able to repeat what has been done in Tunisia, where an analogous revolt against tyranny ended up in the union of Islamist and nonspiritual politicians (Lynch 2011). Quite on the contrary, Egyptian politicians could not come to a consensus, making politics a vicious act of despotism instead of being a unifying event. Morsi tended to respond to disapproval and political dissents in an old-fashioned way which presupposed suppressive methods usually seen in the previous government. It is safe to say that these undesirable outcomes made many of the Egyptian citizens believe that it would be better to commit to an indeterminate period of partially authoritarian government, choosing a reliable strongman over the qualms of governmental politics. Sisi became extremely popular among the Egyptians. The citizens of Egypt now believe that the military is the only effective method available to stop religious strife. Generally speaking, self-sufficient democracy in Egypt should not be expected anytime soon.

During Morsi’s rule, the key factor undermining the democracy consisted in the fact that he believed that he got carte blanche to govern the country. Nonetheless, it turned out that his rule was nothing but an act of abuse of power. Even though it ended in his voluntary resignation, this did not do justice to the democratic regime in Egypt. The only reasonable decision was to overthrow the current ruler of the country, establish a new government, and elect the President.

The new government started outlining a new constitution, banned the Muslim brotherhood, and limited media autonomy (Feuille 2012). In 2014, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi won the elections and became the new President of Egypt. Even though his win hinted at the comeback of the military rule, the majority of residents concentrated on the aggressive campaign conducted in Sinai by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Balfour 2012). Nowadays, the financial state of the country depends heavily on agronomy, leisure industry, and monetary transfers from Egyptians working in a foreign country (predominantly in the Gulf countries). Nonetheless, there are issues such as swift populace growth that are draining the country’s resources and budget (Zakaria 2011). This led to the current political disorder which has had an adverse impact on the attempts to address the complications inherent in the country’s organization and economy.

Conclusion

To conclude, Egypt is currently located at the political crossroads. Mubarak’s withdrawal from the rule, which has been caused by the gravity of explosive civil protests, generated eclectic consequences across all the Arab countries. It launched the democratic change in the area at a higher speed and gave the electoral democracy an opportunity to arise in one of the most influential Arab countries. Considering the fact that Mubarak has been tempted to leave relatively peaceably, there is still hope for unrestricted and unbiased elections in Egypt. The latter also hints at the decline of the severe exceptionalism of the Arab countries.

Counterfeiting the directions and formal arrangements of the interim period is not going to be a trivial task. Political permanency will encompass a wide-ranging course of discussions that would consider the opinions of the chief political shareholders. That would result in a political agreement that guarantees the allegiance of the military apparatus and security organizations while steadily establishing the non-combatant democratic rule. It is evident that numerous entities will ask for retroactive fairness with the intention of inspecting endless cases of human rights abuse throughout Mubarak’s rule. Nonetheless, democratic transformations of other countries supposedly hint at the fact that the transfer should be thoroughly discussed and performed thoughtfully. This means that the remnants of the old political regime should not interfere with the current regime so as not to turn into a representation of struggle and disruption.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Democracy in Egypt: Key Factors'. 2 October.

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