Self-congratulatory blog posts are one of the banes of the Internet, and we at Mediolana do not intend to add to this burgeoning corpus of perverse reflexivity. That said, this blog is one of the few outlets which can look at the events in Egypt during the last week or so with little more than a shrug of the shoulders. On a number of occasions, we pointed to what most pundits are only now discovering: that the arguably dominant Arab Spring narrative which views a ‘normal’ democracy as a distant fantasy in the context on MENA is basically flawed. If the following was not abundantly clear previously, it should be by now: democratisation does not necessarily lead to ‘Islamist’ rule, and if it does, that rule is by no means immutable or permanent.
1. Results Matter. The collapse of the presidency led by the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice Party’s (‘FJP’) Mohamed Morsi at the hands of a military-street symbiosis was not inevitable. But having expended hundreds of lives and incurred thousands of injuries to overthrow one omnipotent dictator in Q1 2011, the Egyptian public were hardly likely to be happy with an eerily similar incumbency. Garbage-defined streets, an eroding currency and unchecked, self-awarded legislative power is not a recipe for sustainable rule.
2. Military Concessions. Egypt’s powerful army is unlikely to depart the political (or perhaps even more saliently, economic) scene anytime soon. Nevertheless, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi’s 3rd July 2013 televised address was particularly notable, in our analysis, for one thing: the promise of imminent elections, and the fact that the keeping of this promise (if not the exact conditions under which it will be honoured) is not seriously in doubt. The contrast with the situation for much of 2011, where the military’s keenness to kick the elections years into the future seemed almost unlimited, is obvious: this basic mechanism of democracy is no longer contested.
3. Determinism Sucks. Paradigms that construct monolithic mass entities are not only frankly played, but belong to a command-and-control era that arguably no longer exists. How else to explain the intense (particularly intergenerational) internal debates and schisms within (and beyond) the Muslim Brotherhood, the muted reaction to Morsi’s overthrow and the sharply shrinking share of the FJP’s vote over a matter of months from Q4 2011 to Q2 2012?