Egypt is moving from controlling rule to the rule of chaos
Whether a ruler is authoritarian or democratic is not as crucial for a nation’s development as having an effective and efficient ruler who is able to meet citizens’ needs. After almost three decades of former President Hosni Mubarak’s iron-fisted rule, Egyptians were unleashed in the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution. Since then, Egypt has been steadily moving from a determined authoritarian ruling mechanism to a disorderly one that falls under the umbrella of authoritarianism but is not driven by it.
Ruling a country with a high illiteracy rate like Egypt requires a clear mechanism to shape and channel citizens’ thinking and behaviors. The failure of the Jan. 25 revolution has not only distanced Egypt from a just rule of law within a democratic system, it has also undermined the role of Egyptian rulers, depriving them of the full-fledged authoritarian mechanism that their predecessors possessed.
In the absence of true rule of law, statesmen able to make solid decisions and Mubarak’s iron grip, Egypt is currently manipulated by many powerful interest groups. Our country is facing a very serious challenge: The absence of a functioning ruling mechanism. Mubarak did not apply the rule of law properly, but his authoritarian grip maintained a degree of order.
Today, the rule of law is not enforced in Egypt and, fearing eventual prosecution, many in positions of authority are reluctant to apply the old ruthless mechanism. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is not as in control as Mubarak used to be. El-Sisi drives politics in Egypt exclusively, but this is not enough.
The country has long been ruled by a combination of the president’s explicit decisions and his implicit ability to influence and mobilize others to better serve his mission. El-Sisi does not have Mubarak’s aptitude to lead from behind by indirectly mobilizing state authorities and institutions. The result is that Egypt may be moving, but it does not know where it is heading. Implementing a policy of harassing political Islamists, without having clear and functional alternative political forces in place that citizens can join, is temporarily privileging state authorities at the expense of empowering citizens who could better deal with extremists. The same applies to government expenditure that comes at the cost of shrinking the private sector.
The failure of the Jan. 25 revolution has not only distanced Cairo from a just rule of law within a democratic system, it has also undermined the role of Egyptian rulers.
Contrary to what the authorities may assume, such policies do not strengthen the state; they create a temporary, unsustainable artificial structure and leave a bitter feeling among left-out entities and citizens.
Many Egyptians blame the Jan. 25 revolution for the current inability to maintain order. The revolution was a genuine attempt to establish true democracy, but it was lost in translation, so we ended up living in chaos and with confused mentalities. Because most Egyptians are not sophisticated enough to understand the technicality of democracy, they tend to immaturely compare between two unpleasant scenarios — authoritarianism and chaos — favoring the former.
The ruling style of El-Sisi, who has been in power for almost three years, is to allow state entities to function independently, working to empower him rather than provide guidelines to state authorities and entities.
Without true democratic pillars and a functioning ruling mechanism, Egypt is behaving like an out-of-control vehicle that is trying to speed up but has no predetermined destination. A ruling mechanism is what matters; its absence may well explain many of the ambiguities in the decisions adopted by the Egyptian state.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir