Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Henry Jackson Society: The Egyptian Elections--A Preliminary Political Assessment of the Post-Mubarak Era

From an email:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        29th November 2011

The Egyptian Elections:
A Preliminary Political Assessment 
of the Post-Mubarak Era

MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Weissemail or phone +44 (0)20 7340 4520 (office) 
or +44 (0)77 666 41670 (mobile)

OBLSince the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February, the future of Egypt has been deeply uncertain and the subject of intense international debate. In the last fortnight, a return of protestors to Tahrir Square, and the killing of dozens of them by the authorities, has only complicated the picture further. What role will Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) continue to play in the country's future? Will these elections really usher in a new democratic era? If so, who will be the beneficiaries, and what might happen to the country's minority rights?

In "The Egyptian Elections: A Preliminary Political Assessment of the Post-Mubarak Era" in-depth and comprehensive strategic briefing, the Henry Jackson Society looks at every conceivable variable that could determine Egypt's political development (or degeneration), assessing each party and electoral bloc standing for parliament today, the state of the economy, the "supra-constitutional principles" which SCAF has advocated to ensure its semi-autonomous role in the country's affairs, and regional implications of the elections. To read the full report, clickhere or click on the PDF icon at left.


With parliamentary elections ongoing currently, Egypt's new political system, however, is far from being in place and there are many questions about whether it will in fact produce a stable democracy, particularly since unrest resumed in Tahrir Square and many other urban centers throughout the country on November 18. 

Basic structure of post-Mubarak Egyptian politics 
  • Since Mubarak's forced resignation Egypt has been ruled by a military junta, known as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
  • The SCAF timetable states that by April 2012 the elected Parliament must form a committee to write a new constitution, which must be written by April 2013. Only then can Presidential elections take place and the winner then take up executive authority and dissolve the military junta. The plans for elections, supposedly beginning with the first round of parliamentary voting on November 28, are now in grave doubt even the unrest in the country.
  • Concerns over signs of instability-crime, violence, and social insecurity-have slowed the process of transition to a fully elected civilian government.
Factors determining the country's future 
  • Economy - There is a very high likelihood that within the next three years Egypt will face the most serious economic crisis in its modern history. If food prices continue to rise, a junta or elected government could face unemployment, starvation, and mass protests.
  • Rise of Islamism - While the majority of Egyptians think religious leaders should play an advisory role to government, Islamist groups - the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists - want sharia to be the main or the sole source of legislation. The question is whether political Islam will emerge as one of the main factors in Egyptian society or as the central organizing principle of the state.
  • Attacks against Coptic Christians - Attacks against Coptic Christians have increased since the revolution and it remains unclear whether the junta or an elected government has the capacity - or the will - to stop them. Mass emigration may be possible if religious minorities are not adequately protected in post-Mubarak Egypt
  • Foreign policy priorities - While the Egyptian armed forces want to maintain stability, they also know that domestic failures can be eased by foreign demagoguery, including blaming others for the country's failures. One possible war scenario would be if Hamas launched attacks on Israel and tried to mobilise Egyptian backing, including opening the Gaza-Egypt border and supplying volunteer fighters, weapons, and money, although such a scenario would involve a complete recalibration of Egypt's sense of its national interests.
The political parties 
  • While there are dozens of parties running, the main contest is between the Islamists and the Liberals. The four significant political parties, or alliances, in size of likely electoral success, are:
Justice and Development Party - Islamist; dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood - polls indicate 39% support

Al-Wafd - Egypt's traditional liberal party; single party; left coalition with the Islamists in September - polls indicate 20% support

Free Egyptians Party - secular liberal; largely Christian support; heads the main moderate bloc - polls indicate 6% support

Justice Party - left-liberal; origins in the January revolutionary movement - polls indicate 5% support 
  • As the three Liberal parties cannot cooperate, they will likely divide the non-Islamist vote, ensuring the election of more Islamists.
  • There are also small leftist parties which all provide some blend of Marxism and radical nationalism as well as several ultra-conservative Salafist Islamist parties.
  • The military and what remains of the former government establishment are also significant players, even if they are not directly involved in elections. Remnants of the disbanded National Democratic Party of the former regime, many of which appear to remain close to the military and other institutional powers, could also be a factor. 
Regional impact of the elections 
  • Radical forces in the Middle East - notably Hamas in Gaza and Iran - will likely see the Egyptian revolution as a victory as it removes a key adversary. The extent to which either actually benefits in the long run remains unclear. 
  • For Western governments, an Islamist-sympathetic regime so close to Israel would be potentially worrying: worst case scenario could see Egypt back Hamas in a war with Israel or even be drawn into conflict itself; more likely is a continued freeze of the Israel-Palestine peace process.
Role of the Muslim Brotherhood
  • Despite its public commitment to non-violence, the Muslim Brotherhood's consistent radicalism should not be underestimated: the group supports Hamas and violence as resistance to foreign intervention; its draft platform discriminates against non-Muslims; and recent pronouncements by senior figures accused Arab and Muslim regimes of failing to stand up to "the Zionist entity" and the US and of ignoring their religious commandment to "wage jihad against the infidels".
  • While a parliamentary majority for the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely, a majority by radical forces - combining Islamists, far-leftists and radical nationalists - is conceivable. With cooperation from some liberals willing to work with the Islamists in exchange for power, a radical majority becomes more likely. 
  • If Egypt continues towards an economic crisis within the next two years, the Muslim Brotherhood could use the situation to claim "Islam is the answer" to all of Egypt's economic woes and to take advantage of popular discontent. 
For all media inquiries, please email or call HJS Communications Director Michael Weiss.
The Henry Jackson Society · 8th Floor, Parker Tower, 43-49 Parker Street, London, WC2B  5PS · Tel: +44 (0)20 7340 4520 ·  www.henryjacksonsociety.org · © 2011 All rights reserved.

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