Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
By Ben W. Heineman Jr.
(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman writes frequently)
The international media have made a huge story out of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s power-consolidating decrees and the balloting on his proposed constitution. How the fundamental political disputes — between factions of the religious and secular, Islamic and Christian, and civilian and military, and between rich and poor and urban and rural — will be resolved in the Middle East’s most populous nation is seen as a harbinger for the political impact of the Arab Spring.
A companion story has received much less mainstream media attention: Egypt’s escalating economic crisis since the Tahrir Square uprising. Yet the question of whether and how Egypt deals with these economic issues is deeply intertwined with the salient political questions, and has significant implications for the future. Indeed, a lack of economic opportunity was arguably as significant a cause of the Egyptian “revolution” as political repression. Read more
Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
By Ben W. Heineman Jr.
Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Note: This commentary first appeared on TheAtlantic.com.
The economy was an important cause of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow. The Mubarak regime failed to deal with poverty (20 percent of the population), unemployment (more than 10 percent), lack of opportunity for a bulging youth cohort (90 percent of the unemployed were between 15-24), inflation (about 12 percent in total consumer prices, with food higher), and widespread corruption.
Since Mubarak’s departure, in February, the Egyptian economy has significantly worsened, with the military leaders failing to address the burgeoning issues. Read more
By Richard Clarke
Sitting on the sidelines as students and workers poured into Tahrir Square for the initial demonstrations that ultimately brought down Hosni Mubarak were the well organized cells of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, known in Arabic as the brothers, or the Ikhwan. Their leadership decided to hold back and see what developed in the protests. Why?
Among the many reasons considered by the Ikhwan leaders was probably the simple fact that the protesters in the square were not their people. Many of the protesters were secular democrats, some were even Coptic Christians. A large number were women. The Ikhwan has always stood for an Islamic religious state, where the government would enforce strict interpretations of Islamic law, not a place for secularists, Christians, or activist women. For decades their view of democracy had been as one possible means to gain power, but in the sense that the Algerian Islamists viewed elections: “one man, one vote, one time.” Read more
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum
By Chuck Freilich
We all rejoice when dictators fall and the prospects for democracy flourish. What has happened in Egypt and Tunisia is a regional earthquake and it may be far from over. An opening exists for a better regional future.
Dramatically, Egypt could become a moderate, stable, pro-Western democracy, committed to peace. Other outcomes, however, are also possible.
- Egypt may remain a military dictatorship, or be taken over by some other strongman. The military’s role is as yet unclear. It has begun the reform process, but retained full control over it and clearly wishes to set limits. Just ten days were allotted for reforming the constitution, a ludicrous time period, and the military stated that elections will be held by September “circumstances permitting”. Read more
By Monica Duffy Toft
With news of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepping down, the key question becomes “who will govern Egypt?” Although Mubarak has handed power over to the military, there is still the possibility that other actors, including the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), could step in to fill the vacuum. The central question is: If the MB comes to power in Egypt or even becomes a major player, what will its position be on the transformation of the political system in Egypt? Is it a force for democracy or a force for authoritarianism? In essence, will the MB foster a conservative Islamic vision for Egypt?
The evidence is mixed, but on balance I predict the MB will be a force for democratic change. What is my evidence? I have two sorts. The first regards the MB itself and the second is the role of religious actors in politics more generally. Read more