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Liberal Democratization of the New Egypt

Eleven years ago, on the 25th of January 2011, Egypt was subjected to an urgent surgery to clean up its political bloodstream that had been blocked by decades of corruption and power manipulations. The young liberal activists, whose life-time, then, was lesser than the time-span of the Mubarak regime of thirty years old, successfully organized a non-violent revolution that forced Mubarak’s autocratic regime out. I was one of those young liberal activists, who miraculously managed to bring down a hardline dictatorship, but then got stuck with a load of political naivety that made them leave the square to the wrong people.

We believed that the miraculous spell that enabled us to overthrow Mubarak’s regime, in eighteen days, would empower us to build a liberal democratic state within a year or less. Eighteen months later, we woke up from our optimistic dreams to the super awakening shock of seeing the Muslim Brotherhood in presidency and Salafists in the Parliament. Getting back on the track of liberal democratization, after removing Islamists from power, in July 2013, was not easy.

The Muslim Brotherhood group was not as accepting as Mubarak’s regime to the political defeat they encountered, two years before them. The Muslim Brotherhood leaders, publicly, swore to ensue death and blood on those who removed them from power. Until the end of 2015, Muslim Brotherhood elements and Salafist sympathizers targeted innocent civilians, military personnel, policemen, and state institutions, with the purpose to create a state of extreme chaos. Through chaos, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to create a scenario similar to what happened in most Arab Spring countries, wherein the nation-state would fail so they can sneak up to power, once again, as “a parallel government.”

Fortunately, the arm strength and political experience of the Egyptian Armed Forces halted this sinful plot of political Islamists, at a very early stage. However, since then, the dream to build a liberal democratic state has been kept away on an unreachable shelf. Legitimately, the new political leadership of President El-Sisi gave the priority to restoring security and stability through neutralizing the power of the Islamists on grassroots citizens and launching a wide scale of social and economic reform projects.

Honestly, it was impossible to rush into building a liberal democratic state, in a country that suffers from strong political divisions, severe economic depression, and lack of security. Nigeria is one example of many states that failed by rushing into western-style democratic reform before laying the proper foundation for a stable democratic state, by first stabilizing economy and improving the state of security and social development.

Nevertheless, as President El-Sisi’s social and economic reform projects have started to bear fruit, it is time for the political leadership to consider taking actual steps towards realizing the liberal democratic dream that had inspired a popular revolution, a decade ago. That is a state, wherein the political power is dependent on a strong multiparty system that encourages peaceful exchange of power and honors political and civil freedoms as integral to basic human rights.

One of the lessons learnt from the 2011 revolution is that the political system that lacks diversity, no matter how strong it is, makes the state prone to exploitation by the opportunist political hyenas. Egypt has more than one-hundred registered political parties, but most of them are ineffective on the grassroots level. The handful number of influential parties are echoing the political leadership moves in an awfully monotonous manner. Meanwhile, the young people who adopt political opinions or positions that contradicts the mainstream are marginalized as they cannot find a proper political party that can effectively contain them. This simply makes them an easy prey for the wrong actors, including political Islamists.

In that sense, prioritizing liberal democratization has become a necessity, as Egypt is preparing itself to enter the new era of the new republic.

Also, read on Sada Elbalad