Last Update 12:35
Saturday, 21 September 2019

Egypt: Incomplete democracy (Part 1)

El-Sisi’s regime will only offer incomplete democracy so long as there is no political pressure challenging it to take risks and change its basics

Ziad A Akl , Thursday 15 Jan 2015
Views: 2635
Views: 2635

On 3 July 2013, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi stood at the heart of a brilliant image of genuinely representative symbols of Egypt, announcing the ouster of Mohamed Morsi and the beginning of a transitional phase with a roadmap to be implemented. The image was genuine because solid belief (though for different reasons) was a core component of the line-up that stood next to or behind El-Sisi, and it was representative because Morsi’s rule proved how alien the Muslim Brotherhood was to Egyptians, whether to those who sought democracy or to the ones who simply identified with a different socio-political perception of the state and the ruler. But the true brilliance was in the veiled, yet direct, resurrection of the hardcore deep state with its chief component at the centre of the image.

During the weeks that followed that image, Egypt was consumed by celebration, protest, political re-alignment, engineered propaganda, wishful thinking, and of course the absurd and futile controversy over choosing the terminology that best suited what happened on 30 June: the famous “revolution/military coup” dispute. Amidst all that, questioning of the nature and content of the post-30 June regime did not stop.

Although much was already clear, some details were still obscure. Things like political co-existence, the ceiling of criticism, institutional reform and access to information were all in a “formative” phase.

However, six weeks later, when the Rabaa sit-in dispersal took place, all unanswered questions were given a very obvious retort, and the nature of the post-30 June regime became very clear. Egypt’s post-30 June regime was a democratic one, but one that makes its own democracy; one that knows what’s right for its people, not one that waits to see what the people seem to think is right.

One week after the other, and as months rolled by, more signs became apparent and more details were uncovered. Measures were taken, laws were passed, court rulings were issued and propaganda was relentlessly offered to unravel the dimensions and mechanisms of the new regime. Things like the protest law, the acquittal of police officers, and including Habib El-Adly himself, the court ruling in the Mubarak case, the politicised judiciary, the extremist single-perspective media, the new range of authorities given to the police and the army, the monitored Friday prayers, and hunting down all forms of politicised or even non-politicised collective presence — all these are blunt signs of how the post-30 June regime operates its incomplete democracy.

El-Sisi regime is one determined to follow the rule of law, but after making sure that the legislator shares the same views and the same exact beliefs, whether this legislator is a temporary president or an engineered parliament.

The Mubarak era was marked by corruption and lawlessness wrapped in deception and supported by the billions of a politically influential business elite. So far, El-Sisi era does not seem to follow in Mubarak’s footsteps; it is an era marked by patriotic propaganda and manipulated rule of law, wrapped in a nationalist discourse and supported by a structurally deep state.

The strange thing about El-Sisi’s incomplete democracy is the fact that this regime enjoys the popular support of millions of Egyptians. Regardless of any political orientation, it would be an act of negligence to ignore the millions that do support El-Sisi as a leader and the armed forces as a core institution within the state structure. A regime with such structural power and tangible popular support can easily remain solid against a fragmented and resource-less opposition operating within an inherent political vacuum. But the regime simply is not prepared to take any risks due to an obvious lack of a political will to do so, and an ensured absence of any political pressure to challenge the regime into taking risks. Therefore, El-Sisi’s regime will always offer an incomplete democracy so long as its fundamentals remain untouched.

But actually, this article is not a mere critique of El-Sisi’s regime and its incomplete democracy — at least it was not intended to be. This description was but an introduction to the two main points I wanted to make. First, we need to review and reevaluate the essence and the pattern of the January 25 Revolution, in order to understand its current outcome: El-Sisi's regime. Second, we need to ask how democracy in Egypt can be complete, because the people of this country deserve to live in a proper democracy. But it is better to leave answering these questions to the second part of this article.

The writer is a researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

Abu elezz
22-01-2015 07:48pm
Modern usage of the word regime often gives the term a negative connotation implying an authoritarian government or dictatorship(not democratically elected and imposes strict rules and laws) .....Is this what the writer intends to tell us ?
Comment's Title
23-01-2015 08:20pm
You wonder the sentiments of the author by his poor choice of words parroting Morsi's followers terminology. Correction: It's President El Sisi's government, thank you very much!!

19-01-2015 02:57pm
Where do I start !
One, there is no such thing as the ever vague and illusive "deep state", so enough diatribes about it. Second, court sentences are based on the evidence presented. Personally, I don't like the sentences, but that is an indication of lack of evidence, which the previous regime clearly destroyed, not how the current government operates. Third, there is no such thing as an exemplary democracy in order to compare other democracies to and judge some as "incomplete". Each country has to establish its own system to suit its needs that may be different depending on the times, not attempt to impose one regardless.
Comment's Title
20-01-2015 12:06pm
Government not deep state
@Sam, What you are talking about is simply the government. True, it is too large, by the people working in it and experts' admittance and there are attempts to reduce it. Deep state is a term made up by conspiracy theorists who think a group of vastly influential people are running things from behind the scene.
Sam Enslow
20-01-2015 10:13am
Deep State
There is a deep state. It is the government bureaucracy that affects all governments. It is strong in Egypt because it is the basis for employment in Egypt. Bureaucracy feeds by expanding to create more jobs but no work or no work that produces anything. A true revolution requires the total reform of the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy resists change from anyone.

16-01-2015 06:08am
7000 Years
A man walked in the desert with no water for 7000 years, suddenly he stumbles upon a pond, if he drinks quickly he dies. Egypt never seen a democracy from the days of the Pharos all the way to present day, even if we are given a perfect democracy today we won’t know how to handle it. First, there is no perfect democracy, there are a few that come close. Second, it took generations of struggle to reach those democracies. Finally, we need to rebuild Order, Discipline, Rule of law, Economy, Justice, and Education, before we can handle the luxury of democracy; for that we need a Strongman, with vision and honesty.
Comment's Title
19-01-2015 10:01pm
Does the “B” stands for British or Brotherhood, John?
For sure you’re not “British” who’s promoting “Islamist Democracy” John! Next time pick a more applicable name! so we can provide a better counter!
John Wyner. London
16-01-2015 01:26pm
Then stop lying
At least stop lying to yourselves, your people and the world that you represent democracy....and that the Islamists are enemies of democracy.

George Hikmat, Beirut
15-01-2015 01:45pm
a Justic system that sentences 850 people to death penalty in three minutes
is not an expression of incomplete democracy, it is rather an expression of a complete tyranny. Ehgyptian writers and intellectuals need to display more honesty, more rectitude.
Comment's Title

© 2010 Ahram Online.