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Egypt at the Tipping Point ?

David B. Ottaway
In the early 1980s, I lived in Cairo as bureau chief of The Washington Post covering such historic events as the withdrawal of the last
Israeli forces from Egyptian territory occupied during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the assassination of President
Anwar Sadat by Islamic fanatics in October 1981.
The latter national drama, which I witnessed personally, had proven to be a wrenching milestone. It forced Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, to turn inwards to deal with an Islamist challenge of unknown proportions and effectively ended Egypt’s leadership role in the Arab world.
Mubarak immediately showed himself to be a highly cautious, unimaginative leader, maddeningly reactive rather than pro-active in dealing with the social and economic problems overwhelming his nation like its explosive population growth (1.2 million more Egyptians a year) and economic decline.
In a four-part Washington Post series written as I was departing in early 1985, I noted the new Egyptian leader was still pretty much
a total enigma to his own people, offering no vision and commanding what seemed a rudderless ship of state. The socialist economy
inherited from the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952 to 1970) was a mess. The country’s currency, the pound, was operating
on eight different exchange rates; its state-run factories were unproductive, uncompetitive and deep in debt; and the government was heading for bankruptcy partly because subsidies for food, electricity and gasoline were consuming one-third ($7 billion) of its budget. Cairo had sunk into a hopeless morass of gridlocked traffic and teeming humanity—12 million people squeezed into a narrow band of land bordering the Nile River, most living cheek by jowl in ramshackle tenements in the city’s ever-expanding slums.

The Mismeasure of Political Islam

Martin Kramer

Perhaps no development of the last decade of the twentieth century has caused as much confusion in the West as the emergence of political Islam. Just what does it portend? Is it against modernity, or is it an effect of modernity? Is it against nationalism, or is it a
form of nationalism? Is it a striving for freedom, or a revolt against freedom?
One would think that these are difficult questions to answer, and that they would inspire deep debates. Yet over the past few years, a surprisingly broad consensus has emerged within academe about the way political Islam should be measured. This consensus has
begun to spread into parts of government as well, especially in the U.S. and Europe. A paradigm has been built, and its builders claim that its reliability and validity are beyond question.
This now-dominant paradigm runs as follows. The Arab Middle East and North Africa are stirring. The peoples in these lands are still under varieties of authoritarian or despotic rule. But they are moved by the same universal yearning for democracy that transformed Eastern Europe and Latin America. True, there are no movements we would easily recognize as democracy movements. But for historical and cultural reasons, this universal yearning has taken the form of Islamist protest movements. If these do not look
like democracy movements, it is only a consequence of our own age-old bias against Islam. When the veil of prejudice is lifted, one will see Islamist movements for what they are: the functional equivalents of democratic reform movements. True, on the edges of these movements are groups that are atavistic and authoritarian. Some of their members are prone to violence. These are theextremists.” But the mainstream movements are essentially open, pluralistic, and nonviolent, led bymoderatesorreformists.” Thesemoderatescan be strengthened if they are made partners in the political process, and an initial step must be dialogue. But ultimately, the most effective way to domesticate the Islamists is to permit them to share or possess power. There is no threat here unless the West creates it, by supporting acts of state repression that would deny Islamists access to participation or power.

EGYPT: SECURITY, POLITICAL, AND ISLAMIST CHALLENGES

Sherifa Zuhur

This monograph addresses three issues in contemporary Egypt: failures of governance and political development, the continued strength of Islamism, and counter terrorism. It is easier to tackle their contours in Egypt if they are considered separately. They are not, however, separate or independent; continuing to treat them as mutually exclusive conditions will lead to further crisis down the road.
The Egyptian government forged a truce with its most troublesome Islamist militants in 1999. However, violence emerged again from new sources of Islamist militancy from 2003 into 2006. All of the previously held conclusions about the role of state strength
versus movements that led to the truce are now void as it appears that “al-Qa’idism” may continue to
plague the country or, indeed, the region as a whole.
In consequence, an important process of political liberalization was slowed, and in 3 to 4 years, if not earlier, Egypt’s political security and stability will be at risk. Widespread economic and political discontent might push that date forward. In addition, continuing popular support for moderate Islamism could lead to a situation where the current peace could erode if a
comprehensive peace settlement to the Palestinian- Arab-Israeli conflict is achieved, and if various other
factors were to come into play.

why are there no arab democracies ?

Larry Diamond

During democratization’s “third wave,” democracy ceased being a mostly Western phenomenon and “went global.” When the third wave began in 1974, the world had only about 40 democracies, and only a few of them lay outside the West. By the time the Journal of Democracy began publishing in 1990, there were 76 electoral democracies (accounting for slightly less than half the world’s independent states). By 1995, that number had shot up to 117—three in every five states. By then, a critical mass of democracies existed in every major world region save one—the Middle East.1 Moreover, every one of the world’s major cultural realms had become host to a significant democratic presence, albeit again with a single exception—the Arab world.2 Fifteen years later, this exception still stands.
The continuing absence of even a single democratic regime in the Arab world is a striking anomaly—the principal exception to the globalization of democracy. Why is there no Arab democracy? Indeed, why is it the case that among the sixteen independent Arab states of the Middle East and coastal North Africa, Lebanon is the only one to have ever been a democracy?
The most common assumption about the Arab democracy deficit is that it must have something to do with religion or culture. After all, the one thing that all Arab countries share is that they are Arab.

POLICY AND PRACTICE NOTES

KENNETH ROTH

Today, virtually every government wants to be seen as a democracy, but many resist allowing the basic human rights that would make democracy meaningful because that might jeopardize their grasp on power. Instead, governments use a variety of subterfuges to manage or undermine the electoral process. Their task is facilitated by the lack of a broadly accepted definition of ‘democracy’ akin to the detailed rules of international human rights law. But much of the problem lies in the fact that, because of commercial or strategic interests, the world’s established democracies often close their eyes to electoral manipulation, making it easier for sham democrats to pass themselves off as the real thing. That acquiescence undermines the efforts to promote human rights because it can be more difficult for human rights organizations to stigmatize a government for its human rights violations when that government can hold itself up as an accepted ‘democracy.’ The challenge facing the human rights movement is to highlight the ploys used by dictatorial regimes to feign democratic rule and to build pressure on the established democracies to refuse to admit these pretenders into the club of democracies on the cheap. Keywords: civil society, democracy promotion, dictatorship, elections,
electoral manipulation, political violence Rarely has democracy been so acclaimed yet so breached, so promoted yet so disrespected, so important yet so disappointing. Democracy has become the key to legitimacy. Few governments want to be seen as undemocratic. Yet the credentials of the claimants have not kept pace with democracy’s
growing popularity. These days, even overt dictators aspire to the status conferred by the democracy label. Determined not to let mere facts stand in their way, these rulers have mastered the art of democratic rhetoric which bears
little relationship to their practice of governing.
This growing tendency poses an enormous challenge to the human rights movement. Human rights groups can hardly oppose the promotion of democracy, but they must be wary that the embrace of democracy not become a subterfuge for avoiding the more demanding standards of international human rights law. Human rights groups must especially insist that their natural governmental allies – the established democracies – not allow competing interests and short-sighted strategies to stand in the way of their
embrace of a richer, more meaningful concept of democracy.

2005 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION ASSESSMENT IN EGYPT

INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE

With President Hosni Mubarak’s surprise announcement to amend the constitution and to hold the first direct, multi-candidate presidential elections in September of this year, it appeared that the Egyptian government had made political reform a priority
and was committed to opening the door to greater political competition. The presidential election initially held symbolic significance and the promise of setting the stage for further reform and greater citizen participation. However, whether this symbolic step toward expanded democratic participation can be characterized as the start of a genuine democratic transition leading to a sustained system of democracy
remains in doubt. The 2005 parliamentary election process suggests otherwise.
The three rounds of parliamentary elections in November and December 2005 appear to have been deeply flawed and will be most remembered for escalating tension over each successive round and outright violence resulting in 12 deaths. Overt intimidation cast a menacing shadow over the second and third phases of elections in particular, and low voter turnout—as with the presidential election—was a notable feature that underscored continued citizen apathy in the political process. Vote buying
was also rampant. Yet despite this, it must be noted that open campaigning for opposition candidates was permitted and that some important procedural changes were made as a result of complaints emerging from the presidential election. Overall, the parliamentary elections seem to indicate that government policies have left the secular opposition extremely weak. Although Egypt does provide for political party engagement—a positive attribute in a region where political parties are not always allowed—the lack of genuine political competition is a pervasive problem that constitutes a major impediment to sustained democratic change.
The most notable features that shaped the electoral environment for parliamentary elections were the fracture and competition between official National Democratic Party-endorsed candidates and those not selected who ran as independents; the inevitable weakness of the secular opposition parties as a result of emergency laws that limited development; and the ability of the Muslim Brotherhood to campaign
freely and demonstrate its strength on the ground despite its status as an illegal
organization.
The new parliament, comprised of a majority of NDP members, the near absence of opposition party members, and a solid minority bloc of independents affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood will present a new challenge for the regime and leave democratic reformers uncertain as to their future.

Egyptian Politics 2006

Sarah Ben Néfissa


The year 2006 in Egyptian politics was preceded by aperiod of an unprecedentedly broad-based movement for democracy, political and institutional reforms, the first‘pluralist’ presidential elections, which confirmed Hosni Mubarak in his post and finally, legislative elections, withthe significant entry of the Muslim Brotherhood into thePeople’s Assembly, which won 88 out of a total of 444seats. The year 2006 itself, on the other hand, was characterised by an ebb of democratic activism, the regime’s return to authoritarian methods and above all,the consolidation of the ‘hereditary political succession’scenario, with Gamal Mubarak succeeding his father. Inany case, the regional situation, inparticularwith the victory of Hamas in Palestine, the war waged by Hezbollah against the Israeli military forces in Lebanon and the rise of Iran as a possible future regional power,contributed significantly to diminishing international and particularly US pressure for democratisation of the Egyptian regime. The latter thus consolidated its continuity. Egypt 2006 was likewise the stage for important social movements, as if the changeof political climate in 2005 had had delayed effects onother spheres, in this case, the social and labourmilieus.The democratic movement instigated and developed among the ranks of the political and intellectual elitesubsided in 2006 due to a series of factors: thedisillusionment generated by the poor political and institutional results of 2005; the demobilisation of part of the actors; the repressive stance taken against them;and finally, increasing internal division. This was preciselythe case with the EgyptianMovement forChange, better known by its slogan, ‘Kifaya,’ or ‘Enough,’ which wassingular because it united all branches of politicalopposition in the country, including the Islamist political tendency.

High noon in Egypt

Devika Parashar

F. Andy Messing


The parallels between President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and the deposed shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran, are attention-getting. In 1979, prior to the notorious Islamic Revolution, which was instigated and controlled by radical Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the shah wielded personal and authoritarian power in a manner comparable to the dictators of the time: Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, and earlier, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. These rulers brandished their power with little restraint, unencumbered by the rule of law and basically insensitive to the needs of their populace. Unfortunately, Hosni Mubarak alarmingly resembles these former dictators in social, political, economic and security issues. He is inadvertently pushing his country towards an Islamic revolution. As an earlier example, the shah of Iran slowly strangled his country by reigning with a heavy-hand through his unfettered security force. He narrowed the sociopolitical base of his government and distorted the economy by monopolistic actions. This modus operandi reflects Mr. Mubarak’s current regime, whose survival depends on his ability to reverse these trends. Accordingly, Mr. Mubarak uses hisCentral Security Force,” that now consists of more than half of his entire military, to impose a measure of censorship on the mass media and ban most forms of political organization, activities and literary expression. Like the shah, he has established control over physical action, selectively executing opposition, imprisoning and exiling thousands of people who oppose his policies. Recently, the leading English language newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly reported an upsurge in deaths due to police brutality. Another Arab news source reported the barring of human-rights groups from attending secret military trials. Economically, Mr. Mubarak monopolistically privatizes the highly regulated Egyptian economy, fostering creation of an exclusive industrial bourgeoisie. He invites only pro-Mubarak businesses to work within his development schemes. Like the shah, he has alienated large sections of the public and private sectors, thus suppressing any real economic growth. Politically, Mr. Mubarak cracks down on civil participation, essentially repressing political opposition; while his lack of government transparency practically guarantees rife corruption throughout the 4 million strong bureaucracy. Equally important, is the lack of government response to crises. Al-Ahram Weekly reported 20 train crashes between 1995 and August 2006. In each case, the government formed an ineffectual and disorganized crisis-management council that failed to correct
the problem. As the government failed to meet the needs of its people, the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan) filled a void by establishing social services, such as health clinics and youth programs, to effectively respond to various situations. The first and best-known example of this was their mobilization after the 1992 earthquake struck Southern Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood provided disaster relief then, and continues to do so, thereby enhancing its traction. Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood has nonviolently taken control of 15 percent of major professional associations that form the greater part of Egypt’s middle class. In the most recent parliamentary election in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood presented the largest threat to Mr. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, securing an unprecedented 34 out of 454 seats. They demonstrated their ability to draw support despite government opposition. Mr. Mubarak unwittingly nurtured the regrowth of the essentially Fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood by alienating segments of the Egyptian populace and eliminating soft-line opposition (such as the secular Wafd and al-Ghad parties). He must seek more innovative methods to remain in power. For example, Chile managed to open the economy and encourage free enterprise under Augusto Pinochet, even though his government was considered authoritarian. Mr. Mubarak must tap into the tremendous energy of the Egyptian people by increasing the pace of capitalization and democratization, thereby improving their standard of living. If he succeeds, Mr. Mubarak could eventually create a legacy for himself as an Arab leader who effectively modernized and democratized thiskeystonenation. In doing so, he would secure major assets such as the Suez Canal, Egypt’s oil production and tourism, for not only his country but for the global economy, while providing a positive example for the entire Muslim world. Furthermore, U.S. ability to deal with Egypt will be enhanced, and our aid to that country will become completely justified. But if Mr. Mubarak fails, his regime will fall to the same type of radical elements that claimed the shah’s government in 1979, creating compounded turmoil for Egypt and the world. Devika Parashar spent eight months in Egypt into 2007 and is a research assistant at the National Defense Council Foundation. F. Andy Messing, a retired Special Forces officer, is NDCF’s executive director and met with a Muslim Brotherhood Representative in Cairo in 1994. He has been to 27 conflict areas worldwide.


The W&M Progressive

Julian Carr
Richael Faithful
Ethan Forrest

Accepting the Responsibility of Electoral Choice

The development of democratic institutions comes with negative externalities. As a political progressive, I believe that the big picture – establishing a solid democratic foundation – outweighs the possible emergence of political parties that may advocate religious or gender intolerance. I am a firm believer in the workings of the democratic process. While I have been studying in Egypt for the semester, I am reminded that despite the imperfections of the United States democratic system, it is still many times better than living under any authoritarian regime that outlaws political parties and posts military police at a variety of locations in an effort to exert control and maintain power.

In Egypt, the electoral process is not democratic. The National Political Party – the party of President Mubarak – exerts tremendous influence in the country. Its main opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood, which was created in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. The Muslim Brotherhood is based on very strict interpretations of the Koran and the idea that secular governments are a direct violation of the teaching of the Koran. The party has a very violent past; it has been directly responsible for several assassination attempts and the assassination of the Egyptian leader Anwar-as-Sadat in 1981.

The Muslim Brotherhood is an illegal political party. Because the political party is religious, it is not allowed to participate in the public sphere under Egyptian law. Despite this technicality, the party has members in the Egyptian Parliament. However, the parliamentarians cannot officially declare their affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood but instead identify as Independents. Though the party remains illegal, it remains the most powerful opposition to the ruling National Democratic Party.

Egypt in Prophecy

Brad Macdonald

The Muslim Brotherhood, though officially banned, is now Egypt’s largest and most influential opposition party. This signals a stunning shift within one of America’s few remaining Middle Eastern allies.December 2005 was a water shedmonth in the history of Egyptian politics. Thanks to elections thatwere closer to being democratic than any in Egypt’s history, the Islamic party of the Muslim Brotherhood (mb)won 88 parliamentary seats (the organization is officially out lawed, but it ran its candidates as independents)—a more than six-fold increase over its previous representation.Considering that Egypt’s parliament is comprised of 454seats, the mb’s capture of 88 seats—fewer than a quarter of the total—may not seem like much to write home about.Despite the gains,the Islamic partywill remain out numbered by the majority rule of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak’sN a t i o n a lDemocratic Party.Some argue that as long as Mubarak controls parliament—as he hasfor the past 24years—the mb can never play a more significant role in Egyptian politics.But politics can be messy business—especially in the Middle East.Death, incitement, revolution—all can turn a governmenT on its head in a matter of days. The rise of an openly Islamist party in Egypt is no small matter. The political success Of this long-established Islamic group represents a major step toward a fundamental shift in Egyptian politics, made possible by an electorate with a growing affinity for Islamic leadership and law, and mounting disdain for the Mubarak government.Political Shift Banned from government in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood is an organization of staunch Islamic conservatives with a strong desire to install Islamic law as the foundation of Egyptian government.In the run up to the elections,the Brotherhood’s ominously vague campaign motto was “Islam is the solution.”Thu s , the Brotherhood ’s rising popularity unmistakably signalsthe growingdesire of many foran Islamic governmentin Egypt—which makes itssuccess nothingshort of profound.“Considering thatthe mb won almosthalf of the seatsit is contesting,despite reportedly wide spread

Egypt: 2005 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections

Jeremy M. Sharp

In recent years, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling NationalDemocratic Party (NDP) have faced growing criticism, both domestically andinternationally, regarding limited progress on political liberalization. One frequently citedobstacle of reform had been the indirect presidential election process, in which acandidate was nominated and confirmed by the NDP-controlled People’s Assembly(lower house of parliament) and then approved in a nationwide “yes or no” referendum,which was thought to be manipulated by authorities. With the past four referendumswithout a competitor routinely resulting in Mubarak receiving anywhere from 93% to98% “yes” votes, the process was widely viewed at home and abroad as illegitimate andwas perceived as an anachronism in the eyes of younger Egyptians. The recent publicity surrounding elections in Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the West Bank & Gaza Striponly heightened this perception, as Egypt, the largest Arab country, appeared out of stepwith the trend in the Arab world. In addition, Egypt’s ruling elite has been graduallyundergoing a generational shift, in which a new faction of young, media-savvy, andWestern-educated leaders within the NDP (led by the President’s son, Gamal Mubarak)has attempted to reinvigorate political culture in order to modernize the NDP’s imagewithout having to relinquish the party’s grip on power.

Endless Emergency: The Case of Egypt

Sadiq Reza


The Arab Republic of Egypt has been in a declared state of emergency since1981 and for all but three of the past fifty years. Emergency powers, militarycourts, and other “exceptional” powers are governed by longstanding statutes inEgypt and authorized by the constitution, and their use is a prominent featureof everyday rule there today. This essay presents Egypt as a case study in whatis essentially permanent governance by emergency rule and other exceptionalmeasures. It summarizes the history and framework of emergency rule inEgypt, discusses the apparent purposes and consequences of that rule, mentionsjudicial limitations on it, and notes the many targets of its exercise over theyears, particularly the government’s two most prominent and persistent groupsof opponents: Islamists and liberal political activists. It also explains how thecountry’s March 2007 constitutional amendments, much decried by humanrightsorganizations inside and outside Egypt, further entrench emergency rulethere. The thesis of the essay is that the existence and exercise of emergency powershave been far from exceptional in Egypt; instead they have been a vehiclefor the creation of the modern Egyptian state and a tool for the consolidationand maintenance of political power by the government.

IN PURSUIT OF LEGITIMACY

Hesham Al-Awadi
On the extraordinary morning of 11 September 2001, I happened to be in the London office of the Muslim
Brothers conducting interviews for this study. The faces of everyone in the office reflected the shocking scene of aeroplanes crashing into the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.
Although the identity of the perpetrators was initially unclear, there were early fears that radical Islamists from Al-Qa‘eda might be involved. The Brothers in the office were clearly uncomfortable about the potential implications. If Islamists were indeed involved, such an event would certainly heighten the fears of the Americans, and of the West at large, against Islam and Muslims, and would give more credibility to Huntington’s notion of the “clash of civilisations”.
In the midst of these legitimate Western fears, the significantly visible line of differentiation between moderate and radical Islamists would become blurred or irrelevant. Not only would this register as a seriously mistaken attitude on the part of the United States and the West towards the sophisticated Islamist phenomenon, but it would encourage authoritarian Arab regimes to quell all Islamists indiscriminately, on the basis of would-be conventional wisdom that
“all Islamists are potentially dangerous”.
Egypt’s President Mohammad Hosni Mubarak was among the Arab leaders who had already launched coercive campaigns against Islamists, both moderates and radicals, since the early and mid- 1990s. His campaign reached its peak in 1995, when 95 civilian Islamists who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, were put
on trial in military courts, charged with belonging to an illegal organisation and conspiring to overthrow the government.

Reneging on Reform: Egypt and Tunisia

Jeffrey Azarva

On November 6, 2003, President George W. Bush proclaimed, “Sixty years of Western nations excusingand accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe—because in the longrun, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.” This strategic shift, coupled with the invasionsof Iraq and Afghanistan, put regional governments on notice. The following spring, Tunisia’s president, ZineEl Abidine Bin Ali, and Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak—stalwart allies in the U.S.-led war on terrorismand two of North Africa’s most pro-American rulers—were among the first Arab leaders to visit Washingtonand discuss reform. But with this “Arab spring” has come the inadvertent rise of Islamist movementsthroughout the region. Now, as U.S. policymakers ratchet down pressure, Egypt and Tunisia see a greenlight to backtrack on reform.