August 20, 2013
ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE NONE OF THE INSTITUTIONS DEMOCRACY WILL DEPEND ON...:Don't give up on an Egyptian democracy (Mohamed A. El-Erian, 8/19/13, Fortune)
[I]t is important to remember four points -- especially as they also speak to forward-looking responses.
First, what is happening in Egypt is the dark side of a phenomenon that could actually be in the country's (and the region's) longer-term interest -- that of a material grass-root political awakening after a prolonged period of repression and culture of fear.
The January 2011 popular uprising enabled and empowered average Egyptians in a manner that many thought unlikely if not unthinkable. In effect, most citizens went from the equivalent of oppressed landless-peasants in a nation run to benefit a small privileged elite, to having a voice and an influence on the country's destiny.
They took to the street in January 2011 to remove a Mubarak regime that had ruled with an iron fist for 30 years. They returned last year when the first set of transitional military rulers dragged their feet in handing off to democratically elected politicians. And they were back a few weeks ago to counter a president who was failing to deliver and, more importantly, was seeking to overreach on legal and other matters.
Second, Egypt's domestic institutions are in no position to respond to this new grass-root reality. Historically co-opted by special interest, they are structurally flawed and lack credibility. As such, they cannot channel the explosion of grass-root energy into productive ends. Indeed, quite the opposite. Their weaknesses fuel polarization and mistrust.
Third, the lack of credible political leaders accentuates the challenges. The "leaderless" character of the 2011 revolution has gone from an admirable sign of popular integrity to undermining the much-needed revolutionary pivot: from dismantling a repressive past to building a prosperous future.
Fourth, the absence of institutional and political anchors does more than undermine national reconciliation. It also serves to worsen an already-worrisome economic and financial situation.
Every aspect of Egypt's already-fragile economy is suffering -- from growth and inflation, to the budget and the balance of payments -- thus placing even greater pressure on a country with widespread poverty, high income inequality, and underutilized human talent.
There is little that any foreign entity can do today to alter these sad realities. Domestic shortfalls need first to be addressed internally, with national political reconciliation constituting a precondition. Attempts to insert an external anchor, no matter how well-intentioned, would likely be more than ineffective; they could also serve to divide a mistrusting Egyptian society even more.
...you have to start by demolishing the old ones. This was Morsi's conspicuous failure : he was insufficiently revolutionary.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 20, 2013 1:57 PM