Understanding Egypt: Dictatorship – Democracy – Military Coup – ?

Posted on July 9, 2013 in GlobeScope

By Nishtha Relan:

It’s been one hell of a revolution, really, in Egypt. Like any other revolution, it has seen millions of people protesting for hundreds of days; thousands have been killed, many more have been injured. There have been several cases of self-immolation, and also a rise of determination to bring political stability through wide spread media organisations. However, the twists and turns in the revolution seem to have made its case very week. The Egyptians wanted their country to be free of Hosni Mubarak’s version of democracy. And now they cannot stand the ‘elected’ president. But of course, it isn’t this simple.


The Mubarak regime was not a democracy. Grievances of Egyptian protesters were focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws which had been there for many years now, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, corruption, and economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation and low wages. The primary demands from protesters were the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime, the end of emergency law, freedom, justice, a responsive non-military government and a say in the management of Egypt’s resources. The government being under a lot of pressure, drastic steps were finally taken, Mubarak and his son Gamal stepped down, and the control of the administrative powers went to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Over a period of time, several rounds of elections were conducted, many cancelled. The State Election Commission announced Islamist Mohammed Morsi as the winner, who was thus appointed the President. However, many felt alienated under his term, he was unable to manage the financial crisis. It actually boiled down to three reasons: Incompetence, unmet expectations, and powerful allies. After several blunders during a delicate time which was meant for Egypt to heal and rise, Mohammed Morsi was deposed in a military coup on 3rd July, 2013. Egypt will now have an interim government, opposed by the Muslim Brotherhood, until a new election.

So, what has been the outcome now? It is understandable that the people would want a suspension of such a repressive democratic state. Clearly, the military controls the Egypt now, which is not a very good prospect, considering that the things shaken up by the revolution may not come to anything under such a regime. The political scientists point towards the possible outcomes of outright military dictatorship, its control over politics, a civil war or a mix of these. And the revolt might have consequences for the Middle Eastern neighbours as well. The US, of course, has voiced hope for a stable political democracy, with contributions from ‘secular and religious, civilian and military’ parties.

However, the dynamics of a Democracy have changed, or have reshaped themselves into sharper institutions, rather. The people of Egypt, long suppressed under the Emergency rule, have had a hard time coping with the prevalent form of democracy. A sudden shift to a dangerous military control, at first welcomed cheerfully, seems to have been too strong an anti-dote, the chaos having spread father and deeper. Democracy isn’t the idyllic form — there can be none. Democracy is just supposed to give more power to the people while grappling its best with the concerns that require attention, and slowly ease into a better control. However, the so-called election of Morsi could hardly have done anything to effectively calm the turbulent Egypt. With a huge fraction of people still believing staunchly in the theocratic rights, the negotiations and middle paths might be difficult to come around. The people are themselves confused as to what power could help the country out, since the switch isn’t easy. The two extremes not having worked out for the people, it may be hard for the Egyptians to understand and handle the ways of democracy now, when it is being advocated even more. The dichotomy between the groups of Egypt that need an autocratic rule, and the one that could progress with the democratic authority creates a divide difficult to be bridged at this time.