''The Arab Uprising Was Not about Liberal Democracy'': Interview with Andrea Teti

Analysis, posted 02.26.2012, from Egypt, in:
''The Arab Uprising Was Not about Liberal Democracy'': Interview with Andrea Teti (Photo: Qantara.de)

Andrea Teti is a lecturer in International Relations and an expert on contemporary Middle East affairs at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the European Center for International Affairs, a Brussels-based independent, non-profit, policy think tank.

Does Egypt have better chances today to become a liberal democracy compared to one year ago?

Andrea Teti: That is a million-dollar question. What I would say is that the uprising was not about liberal democracy. In the west, we've become accustomed to thinking about democracy as something which has more or less to do with voting, free speech and freedom of information. For Egyptians across the political spectrum – and this is true across the Arab world – the issue is much broader than that. They wanted political rights but they also wanted social justice.

The people want the downfall of the regime – not just that of Hosni Mubarak. That challenge is much greater than simply switching to free and fair parliamentary elections.

In Egypt today, the situation remains very fluid. It's still possible that there is a movement toward democracy but it requires a very fine balance of conditions and, frankly, the precedents that have been set over the past year are not particularly encouraging.

A year ago, Mubarak was ousted, but some of his cronies are still in power – how much influence do they have?

Teti: It's hard to get more influential than Field Marshall Tantawi, who was defense minister under Mubarak. But there are other figures as well, the military is a roll call of the powerful in Egypt under the Mubarak regime. What this is indicative of is a system which has really changed quite little at the top since the uprising. In fact it seems to be determined to change as little as possible and even reverse the changes that have occurred since the ouster of Mubarak.

The question is: does the military simply want to secure their interests – which economically are enormous, estimates go from 5 to 40 percent of the economy – or does it no longer trust that a civilian administration would respect those red lines. Do they actually want a much more prominent, formalized role in Egyptian politics?

In public, the military has been committed to transition toward a civilian state, but if you look at what's happened since the uprising on issues like emergency law, the persecution of pro-democracy activists, the crackdown on independent trade unions – in practice you have to be sceptical about their commitment. Their record looks at very best ambiguous.

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Interview by Anne Allmeling

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