Egypt's Protracted Revolution
19 No. 3 Hum. Rts. Brief 1 (2012)
8 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2012 Last revised: 12 Sep 2015
Date Written: August 8, 2012
Egypt’s revolution did not end on February 11, 2011. Despite the removal of Hosni Mubarak from the presidency, the former Mubarak regime remains entrenched in Egypt’s economic and political system. This is evident from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) June 2012 power grab of legislative authority after dissolving parliament – a move many consider to have been a virtual military coup d’etat. Skeptics argue SCAF is merely a Mubarak holdover until the old regime can reinvent itself under a new guise. Former Prime Minister and Mubarak confidant Ahmed Shafiq’s near win against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in the presidential elections may be proof of this. A Shafiq presidency would have instantly nullified gains made through the last eighteen months of protests, sacrifices, and deaths by millions of Egyptians.
Although the current political landscape differs from the days preceding the January 25 revolution, Egypt appears to suffer from a familiar syndrome: for every step taken towards meaningful reform, it falls back two steps due to entrenched counter-revolutionary forces. This began the moment the military took control of the executive branch on February 11, 2011 only to unilaterally replace the 1971 constitution with its own interim Constitutional Declaration on March 30, 2011. This dubious document unilaterally imposed by SCAF barely holds Egypt together as the country faces one legal crisis after another.
This essay argues Egypt is still in the midst of a revolution and has yet to enter the post-revolutionary phase of nation-building. The essay starts by providing a brief summary of the political context of the post-Mubarak transition. Central to understanding the context is identifying the key political actors and their roles in the ongoing struggle to reshape Egypt’s political landscape. Finally, this essay highlights the importance of the rule of law to steer Egypt through an inevitably turbulent phase at this historic juncture. In many ways, the heated contestation for power is a healthy indicator of Egyptians’ investment in their nation in stark contrast to the pre-revolution sense of hopeless complacency. But such contestations can be politically debilitating if they are not constrained by laws that ensure a fair and level playing field among the various political actors, allow the citizenry to hold elected officials accountable for failing to improve the economy, and guarantee no one – not even a President, as evidenced by the recent criminal trial of Mubarak – is above the law. Without rule of law, however, the citizenry will again disengage from the political system as it discovers its votes and voices are irrelevant to the broader power struggle between the military and Muslim Brotherhood.
In perspective, Egypt’s experience could have turned out much worse compared to other nations undergoing revolutions (see: Syria). However, that alone does not curtail Egyptians’ well-grounded demands of a government at the service of the people and not the other way around. Until leaders who are entirely separate from the former regime and its entrenched interests are elected, the people will not see the goals of the revolution realized.
Keywords: Egypt, Egyptian Revolution, Rule of Law, January 25 Revolution, Muslim Brotherhood, SCAF
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