Egypt Reflects Reality That Protests Often Fail To Achieve Democracy

There was much hope among the crowds who gathered to voice opposition to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But the hope has faded and today Egypt faces continued inner turmoil and uncertainty leading into January’s referendum on a redrafted constitution.

Michael Totten of World Affairs gives a bleak assessment of Egypt’s new constitution, which he describes as just as theocratic as that proposed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“A nation’s constitution should be a consensus document if it’s to have any kind of lasting legitimacy, but that’s not what Egypt is going to get. Instead Egypt is going to get the legal codification of a single faction’s political platform. We should not be the least bit surprised if Egypt gets several more before one finally sticks.

“The draft constitution is much less Islamist than the Muslim Brotherhood’s and includes the banning of all religious parties. It gives autonomy to the military and the security services and mandates massive government spending on education, health care, and welfare,” Totten states.

Interestingly, the group Democracy Meter reported that 511 student protests took place in universities, higher institutes and schools during November – an average of 17 per day.  A total of 457 protests were held in universities.

There was some controversy surrounding the constitution’s drafting as a member of the drafting committee has asserted that the wording of the text was changed from “civilian rule” to “civilian government” to appear less offensive.

“In an interview with the private TV channel Al-Tahrir on Monday, Mohamed Abul-Ghar, the head of the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said that the committee had voted on a final draft containing the word “civilian rule” in the preamble, while the version submitted by the committee to the interim president had replaced the phrase with “civilian government,” reports AhramOnline.

Amr Moussa, the head of Egypt’s outgoing constitutional drafting committee, has expressed his desire to see the country’s military chief Abdel-Fattah Al Sisi run for president. Egypt will vote on the new constitution in mid-January, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

As Egypt indicates, protests may spark change in a country, that change does not necessarily lead to greater democracy and freedom. Richard Youngs notes in Bloomberg that many of the protests have failed to achieve even “minimalist versions of their objectives” and points to Turkey as an example. The protests that were aimed at weakening the regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan actually resulted in his consolidation of power after the protests.

“Yet look more closely, and it becomes clear we are still far from witnessing any unstoppable spirit of democratic cosmopolitanism. Some protests have been stirred by big, system-changing aims; others are directed at very prosaic policy changes. Most commonly, they have been triggered by locally specific grievances or discrete corruption scandals,” he writes.



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