“Mubarak’s regime is back, along with its security state and military rule” – a statement that I hear very often these days: from Mubarak loyalists “feloul” celebrating the victory of their “new” revolution against the previous one; from Muslim Brotherhood loyalists claiming the moral upper hand and trying to attract revolutionary youth back to their cause; and from revolutionary youth who are depressed by the current state of affairs. The reality is that the emerging regime is far from Mubarak’s regime, for several reasons:
- Despite the crackdown on the MB, the new regime is not able to maintain full control over the whole population through the use of coercive force, and they know it. The only reason they are able to crackdown on the MB is that pretty much everyone else decided to let that happen. However, the government, this and any coming government, does not have enough coercive power to control 85 million people. Result: people power is real, and both sides understand it. If any coming government wants to survive, it needs to have and maintain this high level of popular support. This fundamental fact is the base for legitimacy of any regime.
- The Police force learned a big lesson: their role in the political process is counter-productive, both to the Police as an institution, and to the country. Once the dust settles, I can see major revisions to the doctrine of the Police institution in Egypt that would keep them away from politics. However, they are likely to maintain their doctrinal enmity to the MB, which has remained through decades.
- The military institution is also likely to revisit its role in the new regime. The experience of 2011/12 showed them clearly what to expect if they are perceived to side against the people, in terms of very rapid decline in popularity and serious challenges to their institutional power. The military will stay out of the political picture in any future regime; however, they will make sure they draw clear boundaries of what they control; they will also make sure they maintain tight control over strategic state institutions, albeit behind the scenes.
- The new regime must take more populist economic and social positions. Revitalizing the economy is a priority, but growth must focus on job creation and equitable distribution of wealth. A new regime should understand the perils of crony capitalism and mixing politics with business.
- Opening up of the media is likely to grow. Although the media has been almost state-controlled since 30/6, this is likely to loosen up. The growth in media channels and political diversity is likely to return and to continue to influence politics and public opinion. However, the new regime will ensure that the state has a strong presence in the media, and the tools to influence its direction and create clear boundaries.
- A new generation of youth is likely to come to age and influence politics in deeper ways. The remnant politicians from the Mubarak and Morsi eras are mostly discredited or disabled. Most of them should disappear in the coming period, and new faces will evolve. Politics will be more aggressive, fragmented, and ugly, but it will also reflect the social scene. The old Mubarak-style domesticated political scene is unlikely to return.
- Finally, the presence of the MB in the political and social scene will also change. It is hard to predict where they will end up after the current confrontations, but they will not be back to 2005 or 2011 or 2012. Once the new power equation has stabilized, there will be a new deal/arrangement between them and the regime that will define the sand box within which they will play. It is not clear yet what this arrangement will look like or how long it will take to reach them.
All of these changes have deep social, political and economic ramifications. We are in the early stages of understanding their implications and the features of the new regime that is likely to emerge. Egypt is at the formative stage of a new republic. It is still not clear what it will look like, but it is not a new incarnation of the old Mubarak’s regime.
Amin El Masry.
20 September 2013.