Egypt’s Dilemma

Sadly, one year under president Mohamed Morsi has shown that the Islamists contributed more to dividing the country than to uniting it.

By MARCUS MARKTANNER
July 17, 2013 17:16
3 minute read.
Protests in Egypt.

egypt protests 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The recent events in Egypt reveal the following dilemma: on the back of a powerless majority of moderate Egyptians who yearn for democracy, Egypt faces an epic battle between a secular military and a powerful Islamist movement, neither of which is deeply interested in democracy.

The Egyptian army’s secular tradition goes back to the country’s colonial legacy. Egypt’s independence struggle from England was also a fight against the Anglo-Saxon capitalist system. The ranks of the army were filled with peasants and intellectuals who favored socialist and pan-Arabic ideas. Early political leaders like Gamal Abdel Nasser, who ruled Egypt between 1956 and 1970, were secular Arab socialists. Their political survival always depended on the military’s support, so they made sure that the army wanted for nothing. As a result, the army grew into a powerful economic actor, running economic activities from bakeries to tourism resorts.

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