The sad state of Egypt’s liberals

The Economist reports: If you believe Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, his country will take a final step towards democracy later this month, when voters start the process of choosing a new parliament. The previous one, freely elected and dominated by Islamists, was dissolved by the supreme court in 2012. The intervening period has seen Mr Sisi, then a general, oust an elected president, win an election himself and crush his opponents with violence and draconian laws passed by decree.

Contrary to his rhetoric, Mr Sisi has set Egyptian democracy back. Yet the forces behind Egypt’s revolution in 2011—when the previous strongman, Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown in a popular revolt—have shown scant ability and often little inclination to keep the country on a more democratic path. Most of Egypt’s so-called liberals supported the overthrow of Muhammad Morsi, the former president, in 2013 on the grounds that his Muslim Brotherhood was itself undermining democracy. Many then stayed mum as Mr Sisi’s troops slaughtered protesting Islamists. Tarnished by this history, riven by infighting and lacking broad appeal, the liberals now appear helpless to check Egypt’s slide back to authoritarianism.

A common lament of liberals is that, having preserved democracy with his coup, Mr Sisi then stifled their voices. Indeed, liberal activists and politicians have been hounded by the security services, pilloried in the media and constrained by government restrictions on protests and NGOs. The regime often justifies the oppression on security grounds, while making the occasional cosmetic gesture, such as releasing 100 political prisoners last month. Thousands more languish in jail. [Continue reading…]

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