Democratization and Egypt’s Political Future

After the collapse of Mubarak regime and decades of a strong bureaucracy clinched by the National Democratic Party (NDP), Egyptians and observers of the situation in Egypt are now in a process of dialogue, attempting to delineate the borders and agendas of newly forming groups and parties. The absence of political institutions to channel political ambitions means that much speculation is involved in assessing the current positions, strengths, and opportunities for cooperation among the vested parties. The main parties involved in the transition so far are the SCAF military council, Islamists (mainly the Muslim Brothers, but also Salfi groups), and youth movements of Tahrir square that initiated the call for the uprising.

The phenomenon at Tahrir Square also presents new insights for political scientists studying the evolution of social organization. Tahrir Square has sometimes been described as the Republic of Tahrir Square. To enter the Square, you get searched by volunteers who represent different political groups, sometimes even enthusiastic youth who had never been involved in politics. Inside the Square, there are a number of podiums, and almost anyone can talk on any of them within certain guidelines. The political leadership of different groups had a number of tents in the center protected and reserved for higher level decision making. Street vendors, advocacy groups, families, and friends could be found hanging out in this dynamic arena which has brought much international attention.

Any attempt to understand the relationship between these groups is challenging.  One challenge is to resist oversimplification. The groups involved are hardly monolithic and do not always have clearly defined interests and representation. The channels of intra-group communication may be diametrically opposed or intimately cooperating with regard to any given issue or political objective. Despite the complexity of the still developing political situation and the multitude of players, it is still possible to speak about general areas of agreements and disagreements among three main groups whose interactions, at least at present, seem to have potential to affect the future political makeup in the country.

In order to understand the relationships among the main groups in terms of interests, possible area of cooperation and conflict, and the bases of their political calculations, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis is helpful. This analysis includes an inevitable element of speculation, given the apparent complexity of the scene on the ground. This speculative analysis is based on in-depth studies regarding the groups under consideration.

Some elements and personalities are not included in this analysis, such as Mohamed El-Barade’i and Amr Moussa, as well as groups and former members of the ruling regime who still have undeniable influence such as Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq. While these participants could be of considerable influence in the Egyptian political scene, it is possible to argue that their future role is closely linked with the groups under consideration in this analysis: SCAF, Islamists, and Tahrir youth groups.

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