The foundation for democratic governance is slowly, but steadily, starting to form in Egypt.
The interim government was sworn in on July 16 and the constitutional review process has been announced, yet the Muslim Brotherhood continues to undermine stability and security in the country by inciting Egyptians to rise up “against those trying to steal their revolution with tanks.”
Mohamed Morsi brought about his own demise by ruling in a “secretive, authoritarian, and exclusionary manner that derailed Egypt’s democratic experiment.” The military’s coup was a coup, but it was not done to take power for itself. It was done to take power away from Morsi before he fully consolidated presidential powers and undermined what little functioning democratic governance existed in Egypt prior to the coup.
Morsi’s actions undermined Egypt’s path to democracy. Instead of focusing on the social, political, and economic problems Egypt faced, Morsi chose to marginalize Egyptians who did not support his power grabs. After only one year in office, Morsi managed to indict more Egyptians under the charge of “insulting the president” than Hosni Mubarak did in over 30 years in power.
Morsi was no better on the economy. Egypt has remained classified as “mostly unfree” for over 10 years in The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal’s Index of Economic Freedom. Egypt slid even further in the rankings after Morsi came to power. The few economic reforms that were enacted under Morsi were largely cosmetic. The reforms did little to dismantle Egypt’s long established state controls. Egypt’s economic woes have translated into the high unemployment of young males, shock troops for street protests.
The army, the only institution with the power to halt the dismal trajectory of the country, acted before it was too late in response to the call of the majority of the Egyptian people. The current interim government has been working with the same wide support of the Egyptian people. It has also shown its willingness to be inclusive and representative of all Egyptians, offering the Freedom and Justice Party—the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and the political party of Morsi—positions in the interim cabinet. The Freedom and Justice Party rejected the offer.
Cautious optimism about the interim government aside, Egypt’s security and the future of civilian leadership remain fragile at best. The restoration of a civilian democracy will take time: A timetable set forth by the interim president calls for parliamentary elections in the next six-and-a-half months. Over the next few months, Egypt will likely face many challenges, such as continued civil unrest, a still-faltering economy, and greater insecurity. These challenges will require leadership and support on the part of the United States.
The absence of U.S. leadership after the fall of Mubarak was to the detriment of the Egyptian people. The U.S. should not make the same mistake twice. The current situation in Egypt remains uncertain and could easily spiral out of the military’s and interim government’s control. The post-Morsi road map has been made clear; now Egyptians should continue to remain engaged in the constitutional review process holding the interim government accountable for its actions. The interim government should ensure that the path to democracy in Egypt remains inclusive and transparent. A safe, secure, democratic, and prosperous Egypt will not happen overnight, but the U.S. should support efforts working toward those goals.
Andrew Scarpitta is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.