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  • Author: Yezid Sayigh
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Egyptian military accounts for far less of the national economy than is commonly believed, but its takeover in 2013 and the subsequent rise of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have transformed its role in both scope and scale and turned it into an autonomous actor that can reshape markets and influence government policy setting and investment strategies. The military delivers massive infrastructure projects, produces consumer goods ranging from food to household appliances, manufactures industrial chemicals and transport equipment, and imports basic commodities for civilian markets. It has expanded into new sectors as diverse as gold prospecting, steel production, and managing religious endowments and pilgrimage. In parallel, thousands of retired senior officers benefit from the military’s powerful political influence to occupy senior positions throughout the state’s civilian apparatus and public sector companies, complementing the formal military economy while benefiting themselves. The military boasts of superior managerial skills and technological advances and claims to act as a developmental spearhead, but its role comes at a high cost. It has replicated the rentierism of Egypt’s political economy, benefiting like its civilian counterparts (in both the public and private business sectors) from an environment in which legal permissibility, bureaucratic complexity, and discretionary powers allow considerable space for predation and corruption. At best, the military makes good engineers, but bad economists: the massive surge of megaprojects in public infrastructure and housing it has managed since 2013 is generating significant amounts of dead capital and stranded assets, diverting investment and resources from other economic sectors. The military economy’s entrenchment is detrimental to Egypt’s democratic politics, however flawed. The military economy must be reversed in most sectors, rationalized in select remaining ones, and brought under unambiguous civilian control if Egypt is to resolve the chronic structural problems that impede its social and economic development, inhibit productivity and investment, subvert market dynamics, and distort private sector growth. Nor can any Egyptian government exercise efficient economic management until informal officer networks in the civilian bureaucracy, public sector companies, and local government are disabled. Rosy assessments of Egypt’s macroeconomic indicators issued by Egyptian officials and their counterparts in Western governments and international financial institutions disregard fundamental problems of low productivity and innovation, limited value added, and insufficient investment in most economic sectors. These officials may be hoping Sisi can somehow build a successful development dictatorship, which would explain why they gloss over the social consequences of his administration’s economic approach and its fierce repression of political and social freedoms and egregious human rights violations. A corollary is the faith that the military is as good an economic actor and manager as it claims to be, and that it will withdraw from the economy as the latter grows. Yet current trends suggest Sisi will remain hostage to key partners in the governing coalition, including the military leading its involvement in the economy to accelerate.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Economy, Military Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Michele Dunne, Amr Hamzawy
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Secular political parties in Egypt have always been caught between an overbearing state and a largely Islamist opposition. The brief, chaotic political opening from 2011 to 2013 offered them unprecedented opportunities, but the violence and intense polarization that followed the military coup have put them under more pressure than ever. Formal politics in Egypt is now a tightly controlled game in which no real independence is allowed, but some secular parties might reemerge as contenders should there be another opportunity for free competition.
  • Topic: Political Theory, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Amr Hamzawy
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Egypt’s new authoritarian regime is rapidly closing the public space—cracking down on autonomous civil society and independent political parties, asphyxiating the practice of pluralist politics, and thwarting citizens’ peaceful and active engagement in public affairs. The government’s primary strategy is to institute wide-scale repression through lawmaking and justify its behavior through conspiratorial and populist narratives. With unprecedented resolve, it has passed new protest and terrorism laws, introduced legal amendments targeting nongovernmental organizations, and extended the military court’s jurisdiction. Essentially, the regime is adapting lawmaking for its own purposes. To fight against the tide, those challenging the system need to fully understand how.
  • Topic: Governance, Authoritarianism, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Amr Adly
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Large private enterprises are vital to Egypt’s economy and stability. After the 2011 uprising, they lost political sway due to their ties to the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak. However, Egypt’s economic crisis pushed successive regimes to reverse measures taken against these enterprises, affirming their role in economic revitalization. Though cut off from patronage networks after Egypt’s 2013 coup, enterprises are more autonomous from the state today. This may create advantageous openings if the state’s dependence on them grows.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Global Markets, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Mark Lynch
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Arab Islamist parties faced exceptional challenges and opportunities following the 2011 uprisings. After decades of facing authoritarian regimes, they suddenly had to navigate in radically new domestic, regional, and intra-Islamist contexts. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood had the most spectacular rise and fall, but its experience was atypical of other Islamist parties, which adapted more successfully. These changes overhauled the structure, ideology, and strategy of these parties in ways that unsettled long-standing expectations about their ideas and behavior.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Yezid Sayigh
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Police forces and security agencies genuinely accountable to democratically elected civilian authorities have not emerged in either Egypt or Tunisia four years after popular uprisings forced the countries' longtime leaders from power. Ministries of interior remain black boxes with opaque decisionmaking processes, governed by officer networks that have resisted meaningful reform, financial transparency, and political oversight. Until governments reform their security sectors, rather than appease them, the culture of police impunity will deepen and democratic transition will remain impossible in Egypt and at risk in Tunisia.
  • Political Geography: Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Ashraf El-Sherif
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Salafism has been one of the most dynamic movements in Egypt since 2011. Dealt a difficult hand when Hosni Mubarak was ousted from the presidency, Egyptian Salafists have skillfully navigated the transition. Their entry into the political marketplace marked a historic shift toward a new political Salafism and sheds light on whether an Islamist movement can integrate into pluralistic modern politics. The ouster of Mohamed Morsi by a popularly backed military coup in 2013, however, dealt a debilitating blow to the Islamist project—and left deep cleavages within the Salafist movement.
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Shana Marshall
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Egyptian military has gained unprecedented power since overseeing the ouster of two Egyptian presidents, Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Mohamed Morsi in 2013. With its major political rivals sidelined, more than $20 billion in Gulf aid, and widespread domestic support for General-Turned-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) has restarted its defunct industrial operations, secured control over massive infrastructure projects, and inserted generals at virtually all levels of government. But political overreach and internal rivalries may prove obstacles to long-term EAF control.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Ashraf El-Sherif
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Salafism has been one of the most dynamic movements in Egypt since 2011. Dealt a difficult hand when Hosni Mubarak was ousted from the presidency, Egyptian Salafists have skillfully navigated the transition. Their entry into the political marketplace marked a historic shift toward a new political Salafism and sheds light on whether an Islamist movement can integrate into pluralistic modern politics. The ouster of Mohamed Morsi by a popularly backed military coup in 2013, however, dealt a debilitating blow to the Islamist project—and left deep cleavages within the Salafist movement.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Fatima Ramadan, Amr Adly
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Authoritarianism under military auspices has been reimposed in Egypt since mid-2013. The state has outlawed protests, strikes, and sit-ins in the public sphere and has subjected public spaces and private media to tight surveillance. It also has mounted repression of the independent labor movement. When taken together, these factors suggest that the labor movement is likely to wane in the near future. Whether this will last over the long term remains uncertain.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Labor Issues, Governance, Authoritarianism, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Egypt