The Arab Spring and the Struggle for Democracy in Egypt

Georgetown Public Policy Review, 21(1 Spring 2016)

24 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017

See all articles by Christopher Zambakari

Christopher Zambakari

The Zambakari Advisory, LLC

Tarnjeet K. Kang

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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

Zambakari, Christopher and Kang, Tarnjeet, The Arab Spring and the Struggle for Democracy in Egypt (May 7, 2016). Georgetown Public Policy Review, 21(1 Spring 2016). Available at SSRN:

Christopher Zambakari

The Zambakari Advisory, LLC ( email )

P.O. Box 18691
Phoenix, AZ ARIZONA (AZ) 85005
United States
6026709326 (Phone)


Tarnjeet Kang (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

Urbana-Champaign, IL
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics

Under construction: SSRN citations will be offline until July when we will launch a brand new and improved citations service, check here for more details.

For more information