Publication: Egypt After the Spring: Revolt and Reaction
12 January 2016
The revolution in Egypt in 2011 opened an exceptionally tumultuous and contentious chapter of the country’s history. Where the journey towards democracy and dignity – the apparent aspirations of Egyptians who participated in the uprising – went awry is difficult to pin down. Indeed, what followed the stunning resignation of Hosni Mubarak in February of that year remains unclear and is disputed by many, even as President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi attempts to further consolidate his authority.
Constantly changing transitional road maps; complex calculations and changing alignments of political, revolutionary and other forces; shifting preferences of the population; fluctuating levels of street politics; and competing interests of state institutions have made for dizzying, uncertain and at times debilitating politics. This has affected Egypt’s regional role. Size, history and geography make it a giant of the modern Middle East. However, as it faces internal upheaval and reordering, it appears to be culturally and economically dormant and to have retreated from its role as a dominant power.
Political scientist Marc Lynch applied a powerful analytical tool to study Egyptian dynamics: Calvinball, ‘a game defined by the absence of rules – or, rather, that the rules are made up as they go along’.1 In the Egyptian context, Calvinball meant that the parameters, pace and trajectory of the apparent transition were never fully set, creating decisive uncertainty for all political actors and observers. Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, such bewildering dynamics have produced the most probable of all outcomes: a reassertion of a military-dominated autocracy and popular quiescence.