The Egyptian liberal age, lasting 100 years from the mid-19th century, gave rise to western-style universities, a secular judiciary, professional syndicates and a dynamic press. Centralization was diluted. This experiment ended abruptly in 1952, when Gamal Abdel Nasser, an ambitious nationalist officer, overthrew the monarchy and ushered in the first republic – a power structure that revolved round the military. In the following six decades the state subjugated the institutions that had thrived in the first half of the century and eliminated all checks on its power. Power centralization returned.
- As a result of economic reforms undertaken in the past two decades, the private sector has, for the first time in half a century, become the largest employer and provider of investment capital. …..
- The second reason is the socioeconomic challenges facing the country. ….The ruling powers will have to offer incentives to the domestic and international private sector to commit capital. This will lead to the emergence of a multipolar power structure.
- The third reason is that the 85m-strong society (of which 45m are under 35, and two-thirds of that group are in their teens) is being transformed. It is more connected to the world, more opinionated, daring, and commercially and socially entrepreneurial.
But there is another scenario, Osman cautions:
The state powers could be drawn further into their war against political Islam; jihadism could continue to rise, leading to a heightening of security measures and weakening of the rule of law. Investment capital would be withdrawn; and socioeconomic demands would remain unmet. This would fuel social unrest, at a time when polarization is entrenched and significant social groups feel marginalized or threatened. RTWT
There is no machine in Egypt, but there is most certainly a system—a self-reinforcing one—that is the result of an environment of uncertainty in which Egyptian elites are individually and collectively trying to discern the direction of politics, says a prominent analyst.
Once they think they know how events will unfold, these elites will do everything possible to ensure that they are on the “right side” of history, writes Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations:
It is unlikely that Field Marshal al Sisi actually ordered the arrests of three Al Jazeera journalists in December of last year, though he created an environment that helped make such violations of basic norms such as freedom of the press possible. The Ministry of Interior went ahead and did it, which is unremarkable, but the fact that a long list of Egyptian intellectuals, ostensible liberals, and alleged revolutionaries lined up to applaud this clear violation of press freedoms, while the pro-government media was egging everyone on, is remarkable. (All irony is lost in Egypt.) This system is the reason why in Egypt’s Jacobin-like discourse anyone who openly expresses concern about human rights violations is branded a terrorist sympathizer. It also explains how otherwise respectful and previously respected Egyptians are falling all over themselves to prove that they are with the new program.
When Abdel Monem Said Aly wrote an article called, Khatiyat Steven Cook or “Steven Cook’s Offense” it was hard not to be angry immediately, Cook writes:
But upon reflection, I understood precisely that he is bowing to the relentless pressure of the system. The piece, which appeared in Al Sharq Al Awsat on January 22 and re-published in English the following Friday in Al Ahram Weekly as “Where Steven Cook is Wrong” offers a strong and fair critique of my recent blog post “Do Not Run Sisi…Do Not Run,” and erroneously and maliciously ties three colleagues—Marc Lynch, Tamara Wittes, and Michele Dunne*—along with myself, to the Muslim Brotherhood. Abdel Monem, who was very much a part of the Mubarak power-structure, was signaling to those now in power that despite his longstanding ties to Washington, Brandeis University, and a host of organizations in the West, he can be trusted to advance their political agendas. RTWT
*A board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.