Egyptian Politics: Past, Present And Future.

Democratic Perspective recently inteviewed Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and author of Engaging the Muslim World and Sacred Space and Holy War.

We began by asking Cole about the political situation in Egypt. He answered, “Egypt has been in a slow motion collapse for sixty years (since the height of the Cold War). The Mubarak regime was east bloc light in which 60 percent of its people worked for the government. Conservatives would call it a nanny state because it took care of its people.”
“The Egyptian people wanted to move toward a parliamentary government,” Cole continued. “They had a police state and wanted free and fair elections. But they didn’t realize that the religious right would win elections. There’s a profound contrast between the nation’s procedural desire and reality.”

Asked about Egypt’s new leadership, Cole said, “Morsi won the presidential election for the Muslim Brotherhood and parliamentary elections will be held later this year. Morsi has somewhat subordinated the military. We haven’t seen intervention by the military since February.”

In response to a question about the potential for opposition to Morsi’s government, Cole said, “There could be. There are opposing parties and Morsi barely won the election. One of the opponents was out and out liberal. Another was a liberal Muslim. Morsi barely got into a runoff with a Mubarak clone. That’s not what the young people wanted, but the Muslim Brotherhood is more organized. The Brotherhood had contested Mubarak for 30 years so it has experience with canvassing and getting out the vote. As a result, it seems likely that the religious right will control the parliament.”

“Labor and the liberals who started Arab Spring are just going to have to get their act together and win elections,” he continued. “There is no evidence that Morsi stole the elections. They protested the military. Now they’re protesting their elected government. I don’t see their tactics as viable to run a government.”

Asked about the US role in Egypt, Cole responded, “I don’t think the US is very relevant in Egypt now. It couldn’t stand against a million people in Tahrir Square. But I don’t believe the administration can be very happy with the situation.”

As for Egypt’s relationship with Israel, Cole said, “It’s going to be chillier. Morsi has a strong relationship with Hamas…but I don’t expect a hostile relationship. Egyptians want Israel to accept a Palenstinian state. Israel has Gaza under a blockade preventing both imports and exports. It’s quite draconian.”

Looking into the future of Egypt, Cole stated, “The game is open. The parliamentary elections could be messy. Welcome to democracy.”

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