From the Editors
[This is the fifth of seven posts associated with a Jadaliyya electronic roundtable on the future of Egypt. Click here to access the full roundtable. Participants include: Issandr Al-Amrani, Zeinab Abul-Magd, Nathan J. Brown, Jason Brownlee, Daniel Brumberg, Mohamed El-Menshawy, and Samer Shehata. A description of the roundtable can be found here. For the previous post click here.]
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Jason Brownlee is right. Egypt is still led by a military leadership that has few democratic credentials; the transition process was badly designed from the beginning and continues to be confusing and uncertain; decision making in Egypt has become even more opaque; the thuggishness and unaccountability of large parts of the Egyptian state have gone unaddressed; and the opposition that pulled off a revolution is very much in disarray—and it remains in opposition.
Looking forward there are many causes for concern.
But looking backward, it is still remarkable what Egyptians have done. And perhaps it is because I am a bit historically minded that I am still optimistic. But it is not obscurantism alone that can encourage an observer. In fact, a Janus-faced look at Egypt today in light of the country’s past and future give real reason for hope.
For all the messiness of the current political situation, there are four developments that lead me to a guardedly more cheery attitude.
First, elections are coming. Yes, the electoral law is confusing and Egypt’s electoral machinery may not be well positioned to handle truly competitive voting. But very soon there will be new sources of authority in Egypt as well as voices that Egyptians have clearly authorized to speak on their behalf. Tens of thousands of people chanting demands in public squares throughout Egypt will be joined by millions voting—and those voters will be selecting among genuine choices. Some of the older political forces will manage the transition to more democratic elections, but none will remain unaffected by it.
Second, the language of political discussions in Egypt has become remarkably participatory, sophisticated, detailed, and focused on fundamental questions of governance. The demand for accountable government—and indeed, for mechanisms of both vertical accountability (in which political authorities are accountable to the people) and horizontal accountability (in which political authorities keep an eye on each other)—has grown strong indeed.
Third, power has been dispersed. No, there is little likelihood that the military will disappear as a political force, that formerly dominant elites will be totally displaced, and that figures who made their peace operating under the old regime will slink away in disgrace. But the domination of the country by an imperious presidency and its sycophantic and venal followers is gone and will be difficult to recreate.
What a longer-range perspective can help us realize is how different Egyptian politics is likely to be—and indeed how much has been achieved by revolutionaries who ensured that the phrase “Egyptian politics” is no longer an oxymoron. Increased participation and pluralism are already notable. Yes, greater social and political justice have not been achieved, but avenues are emerging where such concerns can be pursued.
Democracy is beautiful; democratic politics is often ugly. Some of the currently disturbing elements in Egyptian politics are sometimes a mark of how far Egyptians have come. That the military now strives to find some guarantees that it will be immune from civilian oversight; that some liberals and others abandon some democratic principles in the face of an Islamist challenge; that many Islamists use their expected popularity as a reason to abandon their attempts to reassure their opponents—none of these developments is pleasant. But every one is a vivid reminder of reborn political contention. And each is also a mark of a new political environment in which no single force or power can dominate and in which Egyptians of various political orientations will have to argue, compete, and cooperate with each other over the country’s political future.
If you prefer, email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hot on Facebook
"It is through this strategy of capitalizing from the partisan squabbles among political parties that the monarchy has anchored itself in Morocco’s political landscape as a “uniting” and seemingly “necessary” actor."click | email | tweet
Jad NavigationView Full Map, Topics, and Countries »
Jadalicious / جدلشس
On the Road: An Exhibition by Paul Ayoub Geday http://t.co/TIbB4tMNGk
yesterday at 3:09 PM
Event: Angela Davis and Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat on Mass Incarceration in the United States http://t.co/t7ruqokD6U
yesterday at 12:09 PM
Syria Media Roundup (April 16) http://t.co/JtSpY91QjJ via @jadaliyya
yesterday at 10:50 AM
DARS Media Roundup (April 16) http://t.co/p2uVSO4alj
yesterday at 7:08 AM
O.I.L. Media Roundup (16 April) http://t.co/d5RMjjiFqW
yesterday at 6:51 AM
Latest EntriesView All Entries »
- On the Road: An Exhibition by Paul Ayoub Geday
- Event: Angela Davis and Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat on Mass Incarceration in the United States and Palestine (19 April, Evergreen State College)
- DARS Media Roundup (April 16)
- New Texts Out Now: Valeska Huber, Channelling Mobilities: Migration and Globalisation in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond
- O.I.L. Media Roundup (16 April)
- Syria Media Roundup (April 16)
- Arabian Peninsula Media Roundup (April 15)
- Turkey Media Roundup (April 15)
- The Strands of the Military Opposition in Syria: An Interview with Yasser Munif (Part 2)
- Adunis, Mistranslated (Part One)
- Last Week on Jadaliyya April (7-13)
- Egypt Media Roundup (April 14)
- Tartus in the Present Crisis: A Mirror of the Syrian Regime
- Good Faith or Good Tactics? How Some Anti-Divestment Groups Manipulate Public Discourse and Smear SJP
- بيروت.. أول مرّة
- Devletlesen AKP, Degismeyen Devlet?
- Reports Roundup (April 12)
- قصائد رلى الجردي
- O.I.L. Monthly Edition (March 2014)