The Arab Spring and the Struggle for Democracy in Egypt
Georgetown Public Policy Review, 21(1 Spring 2016)
24 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017
Date Written: May 7, 2016
In 2011, a mass protest in Tunisia initiated what came to be called the Arab Spring. It also set in motion other political struggles throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, before engulfing Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrein, and Yemen, and subsequently spreading to Syria. As the largest Arab country in the region, Egypt has experienced mixed results in its democratic journey. In this article we set to interrogate the so-called “democratic failure” in Egypt by placing the Egyptian democratic process, epitomized by the youth-led uprising at Tahrir Square, at the center of our analysis. This article is structured around the following question: has democracy failed in Egypt? In order to answer this question, this article examines some of the analytical and political failures of current literature on the changes that have swept through the MENA region, as well as the discourse on whether Arab conservatism, secularization, and democratization can co-exist. We argue that a culturalist approach obscures the internal politics behind the waves of change sweeping through the region. We find that, from Sadat to al-Sisi, each successor has inherited a liberalized autocracy that responds to the political climate, by tolerating political pluralism and granting limited media freedom, while also keeping both under constant threat of repression. Ultimately, we conclude that it is premature to talk about democratic failure after only five years when democratization is a long-term process.
Keywords: Arab Spring, Arab Winter, Egypt, democratization, democratic failure, liberalized autocratic
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation