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 Mubarak’ iron fist rule, Egyptians were unleashed in the 25 January 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 ruling mechanism to shape and channel citizens’ thinking patterns and behaviors. The failure of the January 25 revolution has not only distanced Egypt from the just rule of the 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 the true rule of law and without capacitated statesmen able to make solid decisions and Mubarak’s “iron-grip”, Egypt is currently manipulated by many powerful interest groups.
Our country is presently facing a very serious challenge: the complete lack of a functioning ruling mechanism. Mubarak did not apply the rule of law properly during his tenures, but his authoritarian grip managed to maintain a degree of order among Egyptian citizens (through manipulation of the law, a valuable tool at that time). Nowadays, the rule of law is certainly not enforced in Egypt and, fearing eventually prosecution, many of those in positions of authority are reluctant to apply the old ruthless mechanism.
President Al Sisi is not as fully in control as Mubarak used to be! Obviously, he drives politics in Egypt exclusively, but this is not enough! Egypt has for 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. Al Sisi does not have Mubarak’s aptitude to lead from behind by indirectly mobilizing Egyptian 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. Contrary to what the authorities may assume, these kinds of policies don’t strengthen the state; they create a temporary artificial structure that isn’t sustainable and leave a bitter feeling among entities and citizens who are left out and feel unwanted.
Many Egyptians regret what they call the “golden days” of Mubarak’s authoritarianism, when the country was better structured and functioned efficiently, blaming the January 25 revolution for the current inability to maintain order in Egypt. The revolution was a genuine attempt to establish true democracy that was lost in the translation; thus, we ended up living in chaotic conditions, 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 vs. chaos), favoring the authoritarian mechanism to the current disorderly one.
Al Sisi, who has been in power for almost three years, does not want to join his own two hands in a handshake so that they can learn about each other’s missions. His ruling style is to allow state entities to function independently, working to empower him, rather than to provide some guidelines to state authorities and entities. In the absence of true democratic pillars and the obvious nonexistence of a functioning ruling mechanism, Egypt is behaving like an out-of-control vehicle that is attempting to speed up – but that 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.