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Egypt in transition

April 16, 2011
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Yesterday Chatham House published the workshop report “Egypt in Transition”. This is the fruit of a trip I made to Cairo last month with Chatham House colleagues to hold a workshop there.

It was an incredible opportunity to meet a wide range of Egyptian political actors and discuss Egypt in the immediate aftermath of the revolution and where Egyptians hope the revolution will lead to.

It was striking to see Egyptians from all walks of life – and of varying political persuasions – talk openly about the problems of the old regime, and about the hope they had for Egypt going forwards. Of course, not all the taboos have been broken: the military’s recent demand for print publications to obtain permission before mentioning the armed forces is unsurprisingly described as a “substantial setback for press freedom in Egypt” by the CPJ.

What I took away most of all from our workshop was that Egyptians know the hard work starts now. They achieved a stunning victory in ending Hosni Mubarak’s rule, but there is a lot to be done in order to truly dismantle the regime and effect broad-based change in the political landscape.

Here are the key findings from the report:

  • Egyptians feel that in the post-Mubarak era they have an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the political landscape.
  • Challenges that will be faced include increasing political awareness at the grassroots; connecting activists and the political elite to the needs of marginalized populations, especially in rural areas; and encouraging/enabling a fragmented opposition to coalesce into coherent groups.
  • The military’s role in politics is seen as problematic and it should be replaced by a civilian government as soon as possible.
  • The Mubarak era has left a bitter legacy in Egypt’s relations with the West, as most Egyptians perceive Western governments to have been supporters of his rule; Western policy-makers will have to make serious efforts to build relationships of trust with the new political actors in Egypt.
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