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Egyptian Politics: Beyond the Brotherhood


Mohamed ElBaradei, a self-appointed leader of the regime counter-elite during Egypt’s Arab Spring, has just come out with a sharp critique of the Morsi government in Foreign Policy. In the years since Mubarak’s fall, Egypt has fallen to near the bottom of FP‘s Failed States Index, which ElBaradei chalks up to a lack of real reform and uncertainty that has scared away foreign investors. He writes:

The Brothers are…losing badly because, despite all their great slogans, they haven’t been able to deliver. People want to have food on the table, health care, education, all of that—and the government has not been able to meet expectations.

The Brotherhood doesn’t have the qualified people, who hail mostly from liberal and leftist parties. You need to form a grand coalition, and you need to put your ideological differences aside and work together to focus on people’s basic needs. You can’t eat sharia.

It’s certainly true that the Muslim Brotherhood has given no indication that it knows how to run a country or manage a modern economy. But a quick scan of the piece reveals a serious problem: the Army is mentioned only once, and then only in passing. This is a massive oversight, as it’s the military, not the Brotherhood, that is the true nexus of power in Egypt, a fact that has become more obvious as the Army has gradually moved back into the picture.

ElBaradei appears to be falling prey to the view, common in much of the Western press, that the core conflict in Egypt is between the Islamists and the liberals. Even in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Army remains the key to Egyptian politics, and any attempt to examine the future of the country without considering the role of the military is missing the real story.

[Mohammed ElBaradei photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Andrew Allison

    It looks to me as though ElBaradei is simply angling for a seat at the trough, table.

    • rheddles

      What else has he ever done?

  • f1b0nacc1

    The liberals and the leftists are marginal dilettantes, however much the West may fixate upon them. This is the same sort of willful blindness that led to the mess in Iran, and only if we are very fortunate will the West be spared a repeat of that debacle.
    How very depressing to have to hope for a military dictatorship (and a corrupt one at that!) as the best case scenario!

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