News / Middle East

Is Egypt's 'Road Map' a Path to a Stable Democracy?

Egyptian Army soldiers respond to clashes between supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt, Sept. 13, 2013.
Egyptian Army soldiers respond to clashes between supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt, Sept. 13, 2013.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
Since Egypt joined the Arab Spring with a revolution in 2011, the country has been on a political roller coaster.  First there was the difficult transition under military rule for a year, followed by elections in June 2012. The election resulted in an Islamist regime under the Muslim Brotherhood, which ended with an uprising that ousted the country’s first democratically elected president.

Egypt is currently in the midst of another transitional period marred by violence and ruled by another military-backed government.

With an active campaign to arrest leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who oppose the Egyptian military intervention that expelled President Mohamed Morsi, and widespread violent demonstrations, Egypt’s future is hard to forecast.

After ousting Morsi and suspending the 2012 constitution, Egypt’s military announced what it called a "road map" for moving the country towards national reconciliation.  The plan includes elections next year, amendments to the constitution and the formation of a commission to promote reconciliation.

Steven Cook, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the road map might offer Egypt a way out of crisis. 

“The good news in it is that they are going to approach a transition in the right way. They're going to start with a constitution, then have elections for the parliament, and then have elections for the president,” he said.

Cook says in the transition from Mubarak to Morsi they had elections for the parliament, then tried to write a constitution, and then tried to elect a president. It created all kinds of uncertainty and instability, for which the Egyptians are now paying.

But Khalil Annani, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute believes Egypt’s first priority is forging a viable political path.

“Islamists, and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, strongly believe that the only way forward is street protests, not to negotiate a political solution to achieve some sort of national reconciliation,” he said.

Annani said a viable political path requires the Muslim Brotherhood to admit to mistakes that led Egyptians to take to the streets, revise their transnational ideology, put Egypt first, and join the road map announced by the army.

On the other hand, he said security forces and the army should stop the crackdown on Brotherhood leadership to pave the way for a national reconciliation.

Former Morsi advisor Wael Haddara said Egyptian state- and privately-owned media are a barrier to a viable political path because they demonize the Muslim Brotherhood.

“There is a concerted effort in the media to link MB to terrorism without any proof, mobilizing the Egyptian public against political Islam,” he said.

Haddara said a serious interest in finding a viable political path could be signaled by confidence-building measures, such as releasing Muslim Brotherhood leaders who can negotiate terms of reconciliation.

For a transition to real democracy, experts agree that all political parties should be included with no exceptions.  However, Egypt’s political crisis started with a high level of polarization between the Islamists and liberals and secular politicians. The removal of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government did not make that polarization go away.

“During President Morsi’s one year in power, Islamists were ascending while others were excluded,” said Tarek Masoud, associate professor of public policy at Harvard University. “Now Islamists are excluded while other political forces are ascending. Neither approach leads to a viable path to democracy.”

National reconciliation challenges

Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other Islamist parties say that marginalization is a major obstacle to reaching a formula for national reconciliation.

“The road map is theoretically good for a democratic transition, however the crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of the former elected president, and the effort to discredit political Islam and associating its followers with violence or terrorism, are not conducive to reconciliation,” said Nader Bakkar, spokesperson for Al Nour party.

But Hani Sarie Eldin of the liberal Al Dostour Party argues that the Muslim Brotherhood has to reach out to the Egyptians who were alienated during their rule.

“They have to admit their mistakes, denounce violence and stick to the political road map to be reintegrated in the political system,” he said.
 
Meeting Egyptian peoples aspirations

The goal of the 2011 revolution was to establish a new state with more efficient institutions to solve Egypt’s political, economic and social crises, yet the revolution was unable to achieve these goals.

Mirette Mabrouk, a senior associate at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the daily life of Egyptians did not improve.

“If Morsi’s government would have had a better handle on the economic challenges the second wave of revolution could have been avoided,” she said.

She argues, however, that the task was beyond the interim government not only because of the limited resources but also because there can be no economic recovery when there is political instability and a security gap.

“The poverty rate in rural Egypt is close to 70 percent, unemployment reached 13 percent, investment and tourism declined seriously, so the only revenues that were not negatively impacted were the Suez Canal and expatriates remittance,” said Mabrouk.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, says unless the road map leads to some sort of concrete response to people’s aspirations, stability would be a tall order in Egypt.

“Recent labor strikes, which took place in Suez and Mahalla, remind us that the same two cities witnessed similar strikes against Mubarak, the ruling military council, then against Morsi, and now against the interim government,” he said.

Bahgat expects another wave of popular uprising that will amount to a real revolution that will change the structure of Mubarak’s “deep state” that was never reformed after the 2011 revolution.

International Community Role

The international community met the Egyptian military ouster of the elected president with suspicions that the generals desired to fill the political vacuum with another round of military rule. The U.S. and the European Union used strong gestures to pressure the military against such intent.
 
The international community is now waiting to see if the announced road map will eventually lead to a democratic Egypt.
 
Amy Hawthorne, a former advisor to U.S. State Department, said U.S. support for the Egyptian government should “wait till it has a government that takes genuine steps toward a democratic civic state that respects rights of all citizens.”
 
Hawthorne believes the U.S. should suspend its aid to Egypt until the announced road map proves to be achieving its goals.
 
Mohamed Elmenshawy, a scholar at the Middle East Institute agreed and said that 82 percent of Egyptians do not want any kind of aid from the U.S.
 
“The U.S. should send a message to the interim government that until there is a clear indication that the transition is on the right path to a democratic system that includes all political forces, including Islamists, the military aid will not be available,” he said.
 
But Abdel Monem Said, former director of Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo warned against using U.S aid as leverage.
 
“The American debate about Egypt usually focuses on whether to cut aid or not while ignoring that such threats will have only one result; more anti-American sentiments among Egyptians,” he said.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid