Democratic consolidation continues to elude the Egyptian people as the most recent militant attack on Cairo’s police headquarters demonstrates.
The February 2011 overthrow of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak signaled the transition of a non-democratic regime. One of the biggest misconceptions made by analysts, most notably in Western democracies, is their belief that citizens of non-democratic regimes take part in events to push for regime change because they want a democratic system. Rather, it is more likely citizens were simply dissatisfied with the regime they had in place.
Egypt’s uprising came as a response to a specific regional change, the uprising in Tunisia. When such a dramatic event happens in a neighboring country, it is going to have an effect. Both Tunisia and Egypt were experiencing similar authoritarian regimes. Since Tunisia was the first domino to fall, it paved the way for similar events throughout North Africa. This is not to make a deterministic argument, but instead suggests that there is a contamination effect.
Hosni Mubarak was approved by a national referendum to become Egypt’s new president after the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat in 1981 and served until 2011. Similarly, Tunisia’s President Ben Ali, who won the presidency in 1989, served until Tunisia’s uprising in December 2010.
The fact that Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected President was a significant step towards democracy, whether the Egyptian people had intended for democracy or not. Renowned theorist Adam Przeworski, believes elections should not only be repetitive, but repetitive under the same conditions. Using this as part of the definition for what constitutes a democratic state, it is clear that Egypt continues to struggle with regime change.
Morsi’s ousting by a military coup last July not only angered many of his supporters, but this post-election event is evidence of Egypt’s failure to consolidate as well.
When the process of democratization starts, there are only one of two options a country can choose- move forward towards democratization, or step backwards, thus halting the process and reverting back to the old regime. Although Morsi campaigned on the promise that his administration would be a more inclusive government, it became clear after his election that his agenda included transforming Egypt into a much more Islamist state. This signaled the new president was providing more of the same as the previous authoritarian regime. The fact that there was so much discontentment among Egyptians because of Morsi’s failure to keep his promises further handicaps consolidation of democracy, because the citizens are not supportive of the current regime. This inevitably led to Morsi’s highly undemocratic removal.
According to a BBC News correspondent, Kevin Connolly, there is a joke spreading throughout Egypt, “When you get elected here [Egypt], they tell you, you serve two terms. One in the presidential palace, then one in prison.” Such sentiment may make it difficult for democracy to establish stable roots within Egypt as a result of the Egyptian peoples’ unfavorable experience with democracy after its’ transition.