Egypt: The End Of The Muslim Brotherhood Regime Does Not Mean The Country Will Get A Functioning Democracy Religious principles are no good guidance for economic management. But new secular rulers will also have an immense challenge. The Egyptian economy is semi-destroyed, while law and order have vanished

By Paolo von Schirach

Related story:

July 2, 2013

WASHINGTON – A few months ago I did argue (see link above to a related piece) that President Morsi and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were going to fail because of their utter incompetence. Trying to promote economic development in a mostly poor country of 80 million like Egypt is an almost impossible task. Attempting to do so with the added burden of outmoded religious and ideological biases, this way gaining the animosity of almost half the country, is a recipe for disaster.

Morsi failed

While I saw clear failure ahead, I dd not see that the day of reckoning would come so soon. The more secular Egyptians chose the one year anniversary of Morsi’s  regime to vent their frustrations via truly massive street demonstration. Once again, an ocean of people in Tahrir Square.

And this time the military decided that it has seen enough. The top leaders issued an ultimatum to Morsi. It is obvious that without the army and the police supporting his government, Morsi is finished. Even in the unlikely scenario that he will hold on to the presidency, he can no longer dictate policy.

The hard road to economic growth

That said, who knows what will come next for this devastated country now on the verge of economic collapse. Egypt desperately needs both social peace and competent economic managers who will enjoy a modicum of  popular trust. That ‘s hard enough on any good day. Add to that an almost intractable economic mess, on top of the semi-breakdown of law and order (rampant crime in Egypt, including record numbers of homicides and kidnappings), and you can quickly see that, unless the people are realistic regarding achievable growth and jobs targets, any new government, whatever its political orientation, will fall short of expectations.

Egypt is now a basket case. Certainly it would be good to remove the additional obstacle of a national leadership trying to govern on the basis of hopelessly outmoded religious dictates. But secular rulers, assuming they will peacefully come to power after whatever interregnum the military will create, will not be able to perform any magic.

It will take years and years to get back to a livable environment in Egypt, let alone creating the conditions for launching a competitive, modern economy.

Democracy is premised on shared values

In the end, here is one simple yet fundamental lesson that should be remembered. A functioning modern democracy requires a solid base of shared values and beliefs. They should include genuine tolerance, proper checks and balances, and realistic expectations in terms of what an untested, indeed fragile political process can yield, especially in the near term.

Indeed, no elected leader can create wealth overnight, out of nothing. But getting even near these fundamental prerequisites amounting to a “civic consensus” is really hard, as post Mubarak Egypt shows us. Most observers were mistaken when they claimed that getting rid of an old dictator plus free elections meant that Egypt had passed the test. Unfortunately, it is not so. Free elections are just the bare minimum; a necessary but by no means sufficient condition to establish a solid democracy.

Facebook is no substitute for a national dialogue

In comparison with the task of creating a modern republic, getting rid of Hosni Mubarak was relatively easy. The hard truth is that effective self-government is really complicated, especially in an under developed country that has no experience with running democratic institutions.

And one final word about the role of social media. Facebook and Twitter may be good tools for mobilizing people and getting  them in the street to demonstrate. But they are not good vehicles for reasoned dialogue aimed at creating and strengthening a viable civil society. No, you cannot instill civic virtue via Tweets of 140 characters or less.

, ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *