Egypt’s transition ‘stuck’: draft constitution boosts deep-state institutions


The above fake ballot is going around: on the right, “Agree,” on the left, “Do Not Agree.” Credit: Middle East Institute.


Almost three years after the Arab Spring, the Egyptian revolution has become stuck, and may even have reverted to its starting point, says analyst Edie Podeh.

There is a growing sense in Egypt that the best path to stability after three years of political turmoil might be the military’s way: crush the Islamists who made citizens indignant enough to support a coup; silence dissent; and ask few questions, the Washington Post reports:

Burdened by economic hardship and political turmoil, Egyptians are also grappling with a violent insurgency born of the coup. Much of the nation’s deeply impoverished populace no longer sees democracy and free expression as the mechanisms to solve the economic despair that drove them to revolt in 2011, said H.A. Hellyer, an Egypt expert and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think tank based in Washington.

The elements involved in the second “revolution” on June 30, 2013, claimed that they were redirecting the revolution to its original course, argues Podeh, who teaches at the Hebrew University’s Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

“However, events since have fanned widespread concerns that the revolutionary train is not yet back on track, for several reasons,” he writes for the Jerusalem Post:

First, the military, which functioned as of the “guardian of the revolution,” has now become a party in the political struggle, with an unmistakable interest in maintaining the status quo. Second, Brotherhood activities were outlawed and its leaders thrown into prison. Third, human rights activists and media professionals who “crossed the line” by criticizing the ruler (whether Morsi or the army’s Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi) were thrown in jail or had their programs canceled. Fourth, Mubarak was acquitted and public funds probably smuggled out of the country were not recovered.

All these developments indicate that while Mubarak may have been deposed, Mubarakism is alive and well, Podeh concludes.

Next week, Egyptians will have the opportunity to vote on the constitution in the referendum. Former foreign minister Amr Moussa writes for the New York Times.

The draft constitution settles a few important matters—it enhances the status of the state institutions that banded together against the Muslim Brotherhood, including the military, judiciary, and police, according to Carnegie analysts Nathan Brown and Michele Dunne:

But it leaves other equally important questions unanswered. The sequencing, system, and timing for presidential and parliamentary elections remain unclear, for example, issues that are particularly fraught because Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who removed Mohamed Morsi from power in July, might run for president.

The new constitution represents a victory for the country’s “deep-seated” institutions, say Brown and Dunne, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Nevertheless, “when given the choice between a democratic system that may or may not deliver stability in the short or medium term and a system that is backed by an extremely strong military institution, I think the majority of Egyptians have unfortunately decided that the latter is what they want,” Hellyer said.

When the Muslim Brotherhood’s preferred constitution was rammed through in 2012, a fake referendum ballot went the rounds (below), notes the Middle East Institute blog: the choices are “Agree” and “Kafir” (Infidel).

Now, with the anti-Brotherhood constitution up for a vote, another fake ballot (see top of post) is going around: on the right, “Agree,” on the left, “Do Not Agree.”

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