The Lost Revolution

By Lamya Hussein Marafi

It almost seems that the Egyptian revolution never happened, or is still waiting to happen. A struggling economy, an ambiguous foreign policy, extremely brutal police system, continuous fatal train accidents, increasing unemployment rate, sexual harassment of both women and men, a controversial constitution, the abandoned, ‘dangerous’ land of Sinai, a return to the emergency law, and a threat of a state collapse —President Morsi is torn and lost between satisfying the Muslim Brotherhood or the revolution.

The battle between the President’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the revolutionaries will continue until one side wins or the military intervenes. If the MB continues to hold firmly to power, Egypt’s relationship with the West could deteriorate due to fractionalized, poor governance and the rise of Islamic extremism. On the other hand, if the revolutionaries succeed, then they will also face challenges in creating a unified opposition that will continue to seek dialogue and political integration. This is because they are widely thought of as seculars, liberals, moderates, socialists, and even Muslims and Christians who simply oppose the MB. It is unlikely that the military will intervene due to political alienation, criticisms, and exhaustion from governing Egypt’s post-revolution transitional period. If so, for now the battle is between the MB and the revolutionaries.

The MB, including President Morsi, claims that they are not abandoning the revolution, while the opposition claims that Morsi and the MB ‘hijacked’ the revolution. The MB desperately wants to control Tahrir Square, even though this was where all political groups rallied against Mubarak. Tahrir Square and other major public spaces across Egypt will continue to be the microcosm of the struggle over who should represent Egypt’s revolution. The beauty and irony of it all is that no single leader or political group was credited for triggering the revolution: literally anyone who opposed Mubarak’s regime went out to the streets calling for the regime’s downfall.

Given this alarming situation, Egypt’s revolution seems lost. A solution will be difficult to implement because it seems unfortunately too late for President Morsi to regain the trust of the opposition in order to achieve a sense of consensus. Likewise, it is very unlikely that he can rebuild faith to engage in national political dialogue.

The country is caught in a vicious cycle. Security-sector reform needs to be initiated from within the government to avoid a descent into anarchy and chaos. A stable, solid economy and democracy will not thrive without the proper development of state security and institutions. But it is risky to rely on foreign aid to achieve security sector reform or even some form of economic stability. An influx of foreign aid will increase Egypt’s dependency on the West or perhaps the Gulf region, stirring political controversy among those who expect a lack of transparency on loan conditions and future repayment of debts.  At some point, a leader must emerge out of this revolution who will be capable of establishing political consensus and a sustainable vision to get Egypt’s out of its ‘collapsed’ state paradox.

The revolution was genuinely peaceful and people-led. However, with all the chaos developing as a result of the dramatic change and lack of political security and reform, the revolution is at a crossroads. It could either lead to complete state collapse or a nostalgic return to Mubarak’s past. It is not useful to reflect whether it was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to overthrow Mubarak in this particular period, as Mubarak’s regime would have eventually collapsed, for better or for worse. More urgent and important is to think about how this lost revolution can be found again.

Lamya Marafi is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Conflict, Security, and Development at King’s College London. Lamya’s interest is the Middle East region, especially youth and women’s empowerment, as well as civil society. She also loves traveling to explore diverse cultures.

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