Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Egypt - Addressing instability

The Egyptian military has traditionally been the strongest institution in Egypt
 Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The ousting of President Morsi has led to many people questioning - what now? Geopolitical Compass has already covered the short-term effects of Morsi's removal but what are the long term consequences? What was once fuelled with optimism in Tahrir square has slowly descended into violence, instability and a negative backlash to the recent and first democratically elected President. The centralization of state power is paramount for political and social stability, given the nature of Egypt's declining economic situation - it would only make logical sense that the strongest institution in the country spearheads through the nation's crisis to prevent further polarization of Egyptian politics.

The strongest institution in Egypt has traditionally been the military and are the key actor in ensuring the country's stability. In order for it to do this, it has to, to some degree, balance the will of both the domestic population and the international community. The former is a more complex issue to contend with, the latter has a unified international consensus - to keep the Suez open, secure and workable for the colossal volume of international trade that passes through it. Secondly, particularly the United States' strategy, is to keep Gaza and Israel relatively safe from any combat and engagement - which has been a key factor of the trilateral relationship between Egypt, Israel and the United States. However, a shift in this narrative changes as recently Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have given aid totalling $5bn, $3bn and $4bn respectively. The main reason for this that the monarchical regimes that have precluded themselves relatively from the "Arab Spring", the political discourse of  Muslim Brotherhood Islamism represents a regional threat to these regimes.

Domestically, however, one thing that remains the cornerstone of all this, despite the polarization of its politics and the insinuations as to if it was a coup or not - one thing's for certain and that is Egypt's economy is on a cliff's edge. Many Egyptians, regardless of their ideological alignment rely on one thing - employment. With the recent unrest and chaos, an investment in Egypt seems illogical as its political and security risk jeopardize its economic standing, regionally and internationally for medium to long-term investment. This problem won't be rectified easily as a growing population and scarce desert resources, the future of Egypt seems unlikely to challenge the millennia-old, traditional economic problems it encompasses. Therefore, military presence is a necessity to ensure some form of stability amid these complexities.

Contrast of Egyptian politics

Despite this, the perceived misuse of force by the Egyptian military particularly asserted by the Muslim Brotherhood have created complexities in the military's standing in the population. The Freedom and Justice Party, the political-wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for an uprising in response to the killings which left at least 51 dead. Likewise, the Hizb al-Nour party, the second largest Islamist group according to Stratfor, have backed out of political discourse in light of the recent killings. The further contrast of Egyptian politics falls into the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy of limiting the political road-map set forth by the military and interim administration and will inevitably lead to further calls to stand protest to create as much friction as possible in the interim's governance until elections are held next year.

However, there's a paradox to be identified and that is the conflict of necessity and will. On one hand, the Egyptian military must loosen its power and influence in the political infrastructure of Egypt and allow institutional change in the country to allow political participation and legitimacy to ruling parties. On the other hand, the need for stability is paramount and a vicious cycle will continue in the future if any ruling party, democratically elected or not, fail to find a solution to the enduring problems Egypt face in infrastructure, food and employment contends with. The result of Morsi's departure from presidency, perceived illegitimate conduct of the military, both constitutionally and its use of force, will see the Muslim Brotherhood continue to undermine and weaken the centralized power that the military has created and what Egypt needs as it sees through its democratic vacuum.

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