Progress, Setbacks, and the State of Play in Egypt’s Political Transition

TV/Radio Broadcast Press Conference USA
Nearly a year after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is still engaged in fundamental political debates over the future of its political system.
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Since the overthrow of deposed President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011, Egypt’s transition has experienced limited progress and many setbacks. Marina Ottaway, speaking to Press Conference USA, noted, “it is important not to call what happened in Egypt a revolution yet. A revolution is something more fundamental than what we have seen so far in Egypt.” There remain important struggles over what Egypt’s political system will look like in the years to come. Moreover, a four way political struggle is underway between the military and remnants of the old regime, Islamists, leftist and liberal political parties, and the youth movements of the streett. 

Ottaway suggested that, in the short term, it will become clear if the protest movements can continue to play an important role in the Egyptian political process. With the anniversaries of the initial protests and Mubarak’s resignation near, protesters are planning a renewed push to call for the military to abdicate power. How Egyptians respond to these protests will demonstrate the role, or lack thereof, that protesters will play in the future of Egypt’s transition.

Over the course of the next several months, the parliament, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party and the Salafist al-Nour, will work with the military to cobble together a constitution before presidential elections in June. Ottaway suggested that this hurried constitution writing process will likely “sweep important issues under the rug and create a situation where a president is elected without clearly enumerated powers.” During the constitution writing process,Ottaway asserted the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to push for a hybrid presidential-parliamentary system, much like the French system, with power sharing between a president and prime minister. Alternatively, the military will likely argue for maintaining a strongly presidential system to limit the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, with the Brotherhood’s strong showing in the parliamentary elections “it will be difficult to sideline them,” concluded Ottaway.

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About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.


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