Student Mobilization and Political participation in Egypt: Why the Egyptian Transition has Failed?

By Ahmed Abdrabou
Submitted to Session P4845 (Activism, Contestation and Political Participation in the Middle East and North Africa, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
In 2010, the young Tunisian street vendor who set himself in fire inspired what has come to be known as the Arab Spring. Although it first seemed an isolated incident protesting the abuses of local authorities, it rapidly gained broader support and recognition, since it was followed by a massive wave of demonstrations that eventually shook the grip of authoritarian regimes across the Middle East (Compante & Chor, 2012). Ever since it was erupted, the Arab uprisings seemed to be brought and sustained by educated youngsters.
In Egypt, the educated young generations of Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, along with other liberal and secular youths of organizations such as the April 6th Movement, have managed to occupy the public arena since Mubarak deposition and for few more months leading to a new historical era of high mobilization and public participation in Egypt. Even with the clashes between youth movements from opposite poles of the political spectrum that accompanied by a rising rate of political and social tensions and polarizations, mobilization and public participation could be still seen high in the Egyptian landscape.
However, with June 30 uprisings and amid the intervention of the military to depose former president Morsi, Egypt has entered a new episode of history where mobilization has been put down intentionally but still gradually by the new political regime. Henceforth, political participation has declined again to approach the lower rates that existed in the pre January 2011 era.
Student activism is the ideal platform to see the effect of education on political participation. European students rioted against authority at Oxford, Bologna, and Paris during the Middle Ages. As Rander-Pehrson (1999) stated, “If the revolution had a core, it was the young educated elite” (p. 145).
It is therefore, the aim of this project to analyze the ups and downs of mobilization and political participation in Egypt by studying the relationship between higher education and democracy with a focus on Egyptian university student unions and movements both before and after the January revolution in an attempt to explore why the hoped-for democratic transition did not take place in this densely populated country, and what tools and tactics have been used by the post-June 30 regime to put down all aspects of youth mobilization and participation, drawing the future scenarios of democratic transition in Egypt.