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 VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs