Imaginary Obstacles to Democracy in Egypt

While the world accepts President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule in Egypt, the return and general acceptance of authoritarian tendencies—including a crackdown on human rights and political activists, the promulgation of repressive laws by decree, and the heavy-handed regulation of civil society organizations—has sparked questions surrounding the durability the state-centric culture and indefinite postponement of democracy. Amr Hamzawy, former member of parliament and professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo, attempts to answer this question in his latest article on EgyptSource.

Hamzawy examines the source of the “siege” on democracy in Egypt by noting reoccurring patterns in the behavior of ruling elites since the 1950s that apparently convince the Egyptian public of the need to postpone democratic reform. Egyptian regimes have repeatedly propagated illusions that have allowed authoritarianism to remain entrenched.

Indeed, it is thanks to these illusions that Egypt’s rulers have been able to contain popular demands for democracy – a democracy defined by justice, rule of law, alternation of power, civic peace, and guarantees for personal, civil, economic, social, and political rights and freedoms.
These illusions include sequentialism, the claim that transitions to democracy must first go through a phase of increasing economic and social development; prioritization, that democracy must be postponed because “nothing is more important than such and such issue at this time”; national necessity, the need for undemocratic acts to safeguard the safety of the nation; and the conflation of religion and politics to elevate the regime into a state of false holiness and infallibility.

Read Hamzawy’s full article on EgyptSource here.