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Egyptian and Tunisian Transitions Essay

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Updated: Jul 5th, 2019

The Arab world has recently witnessed massive transitions in their systems of governance, Egypt and Tunisia included. Even though the countries have been targeting significant reforms during the transitions, the trends have taken different dimensions. For instance, the two North African nations experienced successful revolutions, and have tried to alter their governance system.

A close check on the two nations reveals Tunisia’s closeness to democratic consolidation at the end of the uprising, while Egypt was entrenched in the early stages of transferring power from the military to the people. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Egypt and the Ennahda of Tunisia successfully mobilized their citizens to see the need for a revolution as the only way of ensuring better economy and minimizing corruption in government offices (Gordner par. 3).

The manner in which the two Islamist parties organized the transformation after the uprising was extremely different. Besides, the military, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt still wields significant power and influence on the operations of any government of the day, as opposed to Tunisian military that respects the people’s rights and freedom of choice. These parameters explain the cause for the differences that have existed in the transition in the two countries.

The two Islamist parties had used the overreaching social and economic challenges as the cornerstones for necessitating revolutions. The difference in transition is evident in the way the two parties handled post-revolutionary crisis. As the Muslim Brotherhood insisted on the Islamic ideology in getting solutions to the societal problems, Ennahda presented itself as a civic organization, in which it fought for the rights of all religious groups in Tunisia.

In addition, Ennahda signed several agreements with Ettakatol, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), and the Congress for the Republic (CPR) in order to enable all societal organizations to comprehend the future political culture of the country. Clearly, Ennahda acceptance to incorporate secular and leftist co-revolutionists enhanced freedom and autonomy to both the government and religious institutions.

This is contradictory to the nature in which the Muslim Brotherhood handled co-revolutionists after assuming office. There inability to transfer powers from the Egyptian army to the people and limited agreements between MB and co-revolutionists sparked confrontations in the country resulting in the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, a popularly elected president, within twelve months in office (Gordner par. 6).

Lack of consensus in Egypt has played significant role in derailing the transition process. MB considered Islamic democracy as the only acceptable democracy for the nation while Ennahda entertained compromise on the state’s character by practicing liberalism in order to enhance political and social stability in Tunisia. The democratic transition in Egypt suffered a blow when the army and MB opted to exclude non-Islamists groups in their quest for a new constitution.

Clearly, Islamists inability to address the desired system of governance also led to their unsuccessful control of power. The Muslim Brotherhood, after assuming power started experiencing ideological and generational fractures, which the group failed to address effectively thus causing internal wrangles and eventually lose of power. Even though political Islam in the Middle East nations struggles to forge unity, there are large gaps in issues that needed urgent redress.

In the Egyptian context, Islamist came to power with high promises to salvage the weakened economy and heal the political rifts; however, President Morsi went on to alienate his foot-soldier and concentrated in snatching control of all Egypt’s institutions (Gordner par. 9). The government’s inability to foster strong collaboration with Islamist allies and the army resulted in alienation of the Islamist government.

The Egyptian and Tunisian militaries have also played essential functions in the transition process of the two nations. In Egypt, SCAF wields a lot of power and controls one fifth of the nation’s economy; therefore, they find it unconvincing to transfer power to the people.

The SCAF has great investments across the country, and has to maintain its strong foundation in economical and political fronts. In the run-up to the first democratic elections, SCAF positioned themselves as protector of societal rights for the secular and liberal groups (Gordner par. 12).

Even after the election, President Morsi and MB exercised little influence on the people and governance issues. For instance, SCAF dissolved parliament soon after the election of President Morsi since they had legislative authority and control over the new constitution.

There were several court cases that the Appeals Court ruled in favor of the SCAF, arguing that the army was the highest authority in Egypt. From these events, Egypt’s transition has been coupled with threats on democracy. On the other hand, Tunisia’s army has not been at the epicenter in managing the affairs of the country.

In this aspect, Tunisian military has been instrumental in enhancing democracy, as it oversaw the installation of an interim Government that had the people’s command (Gordner par. 11). In Tunisia, citizens are in full control of functioning of the state since the military respects the clear division of power that stipulates its role for the nation.

Tunisia’s transition has witnessed smooth power transfer and governance, as opposed to Egypt’s version where the military can defy the will of the people at any time for the sake of their interest. SCAF merely replaced Mubarak in the post-revolutionary times as the highest authority of the land, thus signifying no change in regime.

In the wake-up to the post-revolutionary nations, roles that international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) played have brought differences in the transition of the two nations in the Horns of Africa. NGOs such as the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute have been training and educating people on the governance systems, human rights, their expectations, and roles in the government amongst others (Gordner par. 14).

In Tunisia, these organizations organize seminars and workshops to enlighten people on how to manage their political affairs and draft the new constitution. Tunisia has made tremendous steps towards improving their governance system after the uprising by allowing and incorporating NGOs in the development programs in the country. This situation is different in Egypt, where the government launched massive crackdown on all NGOs. As a result, training programs on democratic practices have remained minimal.

The intention of denying NGOs opportunities to educate people in Egypt is attributable to the authoritarian nature of SCAF and MB, as they do not want the marginalized groups to know their rights (Gordner par. 14). Egypt has even held trials for over 40 NGO workers for their roles in creating awareness in the country. Egypt has remained a hostile environment to such international organizations, thus prompting the NGOs to limit their funding to the North African country.

Transition in Egypt has faced great challenges from the discussed factors, as they have been distracters to democratic practices. Egypt has maintained the authoritarian system and military dictatorship in managing the transition. These have brought challenges in fostering national unity and trust as opposed to Tunisia, which is also an Islamic nation.

Works Cited

Gordner, Matt. “Democratic Transition in Egypt and Tunisia: Lessons for “Arab Spring” States.” Consultancy Africa Intelligence. N.p., 2 Aug. 2012. Web.

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