By Ali Kadivar
Submitted to Session P4813 (After the Spring: Contentious Politics and Political Processes beyond 2011, 2017 Annual Meeting
Despite all initial enthusiasm and exuberance about the democratic potential of recent wave of protest in Arab spring, the resurgence of authoritarianism in countries such as Egypt reminded many of us that democratization is a volatile process and democratic regimes may easily collapse in the face of serious authoritarian challenges. In Egypt, the uprising that initially brought down the long-standing dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 later set the stage for a popular coup and crackdown on different factions that had organized the 2011 revolt. How should we explain the eventual breakdown of democracy in Egypt in 2013? This paper explains the failure of democratization in Egypt by highlight the short duration of mobilization that led to the fall of Mubarak. Democracies that result from shorter period of contention have a lower chance of survival than democracies that emerge from longer period of mass mobilization. Longer mobilization means that the oppositional movement is required to build a vast organizational structure. When the transition happens such organization would be able to marginalize the authoritarian elite and take the position of leadership in the new democratic regime, and build new democratic institutions. I argue that the Egyptian revolution failed in sustaining its democratic achievement because it was a short campaign, and shorter campaigns in general have a lower chance of keeping their democratic achievements. The uprising in Egypt succeeded in bringing down Hosni Mubarak in about three weeks. The organizers of this initial wave of mobilization did not have to build a vast organizational infrastructure for such short-term mobilization. The revolutionaries then entered the post-Mubarak era with considerable organizational weakness. By departure of Mubarak it was time to elect new leaders for the country and set the agenda through elections and referendum. However, revolutionaries that mostly belonged to secular factions of the Egyptian politics did not have the required organizational strength to translate their initial success into votes. On the other hand, Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the most potent organization in the post- Mubarak era with considerable capacity in electoral performance. The revolutionaries and seculars lost almost all the electoral battles in the post-Mubarak era to Islamists and specifically Muslim Brothers. Their anxiety about their inability to curtail Brother powers through institutional politics pushed toward resorting to protest tactics and hoping for military’s intervention in their favor, which led to 2013 coup and the end of the democratic period in Egypt.