This Saturday, Egypt will hold the final round of its first presidential elections since ex-President Mubarak stepped down in 2011—and the media is rife with speculation on how it will go.
In this podcast by news blog The Arabist, four Egypt scholars—including our recent author Joshua Stacher—sit down to tell us what we need to know about the unfolding events in Egypt and what the U.S. has to do with it.
The conclusion is a bit of a downer: no matter what happens this weekend, there’s not going to be a dramatic change from authoritarianism to democracy in Egypt. In other words, don’t hold your breath for a radical shift to democracy.
Joshua Stacher, who teaches and researches Middle Eastern politics at Kent State University, chalks this up to Egypt’s centralized political power structure—aka its executive autonomy, which has given the political elite the flexibility to navigate the revolution surprisingly well. In his latest book Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria, Stacher shows that Egypt is actually experiencing a relatively swift and smooth transfer of power—especially in comparison to nearby Syria, a decentralized system of power, which is struggling through a full-scale civil war as its president hangs on.
For those confused by what we should think of the unfolding events in the Arab world, Stacher puts it this way: the past defines the present. Why did Egypt experience an uprising remarkably less bloody than the one in Syria? The answer may be in the countries’ political structures: Egypt’s political structure is significantly more centralized than Syria's, and that makes a world of difference when it comes to how a regime change will play out.
In that case…if the past defines the present, and today is tomorrow’s past... then we’ll be anxiously watching out for how the Egyptian elections turn out this weekend.
In the meantime, read an excerpt from Stacher’s book.
Listen to some nuggets from the podcast:
- What the possible legal dissolution of the parliament means for the elections (around 13:00)
- Speculation on the election’s outcomes (around 16:00)
- What potential the revolution still has to achieve its demands (from 21:50)
- Josh Stacher speaks on the role of the U.S. in Egypt—and how U.S. policy supports the counterrevolutionaries (from 34:30). For more on this topic, see this interview hosted by Stacher.
- About that anti-spy video aired on Egyptian televisions… (from 52:28)