Why Egypt’s new parliament will be born broken

Nathan J. Brown writes: Over the coming weeks, Egyptians will vote in parliamentary elections in which nobody knows who will win yet everybody knows the result. The regime will then claim (inaccurately) that the “road map” — announced when former president Mohamed Morsi was deposed in July 2013 — has been completed. Few observers have high hopes for the new parliament, but its lackluster future has roots in the state’s complicated past.

Regardless of the results of individual races, the parliament will play the same role: the body will be weak but not toothless; it will be less a rubber stamp than an annoying speed bump for Egypt’s rulers. Virtually everyone is likely to come away disappointed: Egypt’s leaders who show no interest in politics will find a parliament that must be massaged; the opposition will find few points of entry; deputies will enjoy little authority; and voters will find little choice. Egypt’s parliamentary system seems to serve no purpose but appears to have been built on purpose. What is the secret behind the apparently planned obsolescence of the parliament?

This is not a Stalinist election. Multiple candidates and party slates are competing. With a new set of rules, some redrawn boundaries, untested electoral actors and influential local bigwigs jockeying in new alliances, it is difficult to forecast individual races. But the expected outcome — a motley group of politicians, pundits and patrons (but not strong parties) seeking access to resources, platforms for posturing and prestige — remains the same. [Continue reading…]

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