Is the Military taking Egypt a step back on the Road to Democracy?

and 12.03.13

Is the Military taking Egypt a step back on the Road to Democracy?

and 12.03.13
Mosaab Elshamy/AFPMosaab Elshamy/AFP

Last week, Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, approved a new law that criminalizes protests that take place without government permission. He argued the new law will help restore security and enable the economy to recover. The reasoning being, that after nearly three years of upheavals, the law would be welcomed by his exhausted fellow countrymen. Two days after its implementation, major protests broke out in Egypt and several arrests followed, including that of seven girls ranging from 15 to 17 years old. The New York Times reports that the riot police brought a violent end to peaceful protests, beating, sexually harassing and detaining some of Egypt’s most prominent human rights activists in a burst of repression that seemed likely to broaden opposition to the military-backed government. Subsequently, the BBC says, 10 members of the 50 member panel that is drafting Egypt’s new constitution, suspended their work in remonstration.

Drafters of the revised constitution were planning on guaranteeing freedom of expression for Egypt. Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said Egyptians were increasingly “objecting to the ascendancy of the military and the re-emergence of the secret police.” Ironically, the new Egyptian law outlawing protests may actually have awakened some of Egypt’s “dormant revolutionaries,” which might lead to more protests in the future. In the meantime, a suicide bomber killed 11 soldiers in the Sinai, foreshadowing even greater trouble for the country, despite the lifting of the state of emergency this week.

Strategic Interests

Many believe that the passing of the above mentioned law is aimed squarely at supporters of Mohammed Morsi and the fallen Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose shot at governing Egypt did not last as long as they hoped, does not have many friends abroad. On November 20th, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Egyptian revolution was “stolen” from the youth who started it by the Muslim Brotherhood. The word stolen was not used again when the military took things over from the Brotherhood. Even if the US is not openly backing the military government in Egypt, it still clearly the better option in the eyes of Washington.

Turkey, on another hand, is one of the few that would have preferred seeing Morsi stay in power. Consequent to the Egyptian military taking over in July, Egypt has seen its diplomatic ties with Turkey turn sour. The relationship seems to have suffered quite a bit. CNN reports that the Turkish and Egyptian governments have engaged in a round of tit-for-tat diplomacy last week, with Egypt first expelling Ankara’s Ambassador and then Turkey reciprocating.

Social Influences

The exact role and power of the military has been one of the most contentious aspects of Egyptian politics over the past few years. Ever since the Arab Spring, a trend has emerged whereby if any one organization or group was perceived as too powerful, they were met with disapproval from a number of other groups. If, as this recent news indicates, the military appropriates a degree of political and judicial power deemed too substantial, then the other political forces will coalesce to rock that boat as much as they can. This leads us to consider that Egypt will likely continue to experience instability in the next weeks.

Assets at Risk

Ironically, any show of force by the military in the past has tended to return investor confidence in the country.

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