Political Regimes in the Middle East (Egypt)
The MENA region is usually considered a part of the world that has a number of authoritarian style governments whether monarchical or somewhat totalitarian. Most authoritarian republics in the Middle East fall into one of two categories: RPLA which stands for Resource Poor Labor Abundant or the RRLA category which stands for Resource Rich Labor Abundant. Those who rule the countries in the RRLA category have an easier time maintaining their rule as they can provide coercive force through secret police, push for limits on freedom of expression through intimidation, as well as temporarily satisfy their populations by providing for social services such as free education and health care. Some authoritarian governments such as Kuwait and Oman can be said to have populations who are satiated by their governments and, therefore, have very few uprisings or protests in recent years.
“Regime change may be revolutionary and violent, and it can also be peaceful and incremental. (3)” For example, the Pahlavi dynastic rule, when moved to the Islamic republic or theocracy, as described in the Political Economy of the Middle East, was violent, while in Turkey moving from a single-party authoritarian regime to a two party system with contested elections was fairly peaceful in the early 1950’s. (3) The history of the country plays a huge role in its long-term political and economic future.
Prior to the uprising in 2011 and the Arab Spring which I discussed in previous blog posts, Egypt had been moving from Nasser’s single-party, authoritarian socialist regime toward a multiparty system in which private economic interests were increasingly integrated although current political changes have backtracked this a bit.
Will Egypt always revert back to Authoritarian style ruling?
Egypt can be described previously as an authoritarian system who “financially adopted quasi-socialist policies to justify their rule with promises of redistribution, social mobility, and a radical reworking of the social order that had prevailed in the colonial era systems. (3)” As discussed in the previous blog about the Arab Spring, if countries such as Egypt who are considered RPLA didn’t create economic improvements, they couldn’t maintain power and showed that they could be taken down which later led to Egypt’s revolution.
Mubarak became President after the more liberal, Sadat was murdered by an Islamist militant organization. He distrusted advocacy groups and used his security forces to crush militant Islamic groups. In doing so, he began to re-establish authoritarian rule after Sadat had allowed for a bit more freedom. He did, however, work more for the development of the country and accepted support from international institutions such as the IMF and world Bank.
However Mubarak’s Presidency was marked by corruption, cronyism, and government repression with increased poverty rates although there was huge macroeconomic reforms and privatization, which meant the money was going somewhere else rather than benefiting the people. Under Mubarak’s rule Egypt was on its way to a revolution when only the elite class really benefited from market reforms and the middle-class sector slowly began to feel the economic strain.
When Morsi became his successor in new democratic elections in 2011 via the support and push of the Muslim Brotherhood, he was removed by the military-ruled government in who then cracked down on human rights thus bringing back authoritarian style ruling which was predicted by Al-Jazzera in stating “In spite of its supposed successes up to this point, the logic of the new authoritarianism cannot hold in a future Egypt that is not only democratic but embodies the principles of political pluralism as well.(1)” The hope for Egypt to further its democratic transition was crushed with the reversal of the election by the military.
Presently, Egypt has returned to military rule and repression under Al-Sisi thus going back to its past and moving away from modernization and liberalization.
Under Al-Sisi, the 2011 revolution has almost completely reversed itself. In The Middle East Monitor, Nasim Ahemd describes Egypt’s present situation as this, “Egypt’s massive U-turn from the spirit of the 25 January Revolution and the alarming rise of political repression and human rights abuses following the overthrow of President Morsi has been documented widely by numerous human rights groups. The statistics are chilling; 529 people were sentenced to death in a trial lasting just a few hours, for example.” He then goes on to state, “A dark cloud is hanging over Egyptian politics. Al-Sisi’s first electoral victory last May was conducted in this climate of fear, repression and intimidation that lead to mass arrests. Human Rights Watch reported that more than 16,000 people were arrested and that the mass arrest of thousands of political dissidents, whether Islamist or secular, has all but shut down the political arena and stripped Egyptian elections of any real meaning.”
The spirit of the revolution has seemed to have dissapear at least from the public view as the population has to live under a repressive, military backed ruler. Egypt’s future remains uncertain, but the theme of authoritarian rule in the MENA region certainly remains true for Egypt.
- (1) http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/2012124111437225259.html
- (2) “Authoritarianism.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. William Darity, Jr. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 213-214. Global Issues In Context.
- (3) Richards, Alan, John Waterbury, Ishac Diwan, and Melani Cammett. A Political Economy of the Middle East. Boulder: Westview, 2015. Print.
- (4) https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/16535-can-egypt-escape-the-grip-of-its-authoritarian-past
- (5) http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/28/egypt-elections-amidst-political-repression