Can Egypt Become a Democracy Amid Violence and Uncertainty?

As violence in Egypt continued for the third consecutive day and protesters plan a “million man” march in Cairo, Egyptian cabinet members have submitted their resignation to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the country is in crisis mode.

The future of Egypt is looking increasingly grim as further economic crisis, violence, and political uncertainty have been staples since former ruler Hosni Mubarak was ousted in some of the most visible and captivating Arab Spring protests.

This weekend, demonstrations across Egypt turned bloody - set off by a document issued by the ruling military council that attempted to lay the ground rules out for a new Egyptian Constitution.

Many of the provisions in the document that sparked protests called for the respect of individual liberties and minority rights. One provision, however, suggested that the military remain the guardian of “constitutional legitimacy,” essentially shielding the military from public oversight even after a civilian government becomes democratically elected.

As violence between security forces and protesters broke out in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, political activists hoping for a democratic Egypt are increasingly concerned about their future and the country's prospects for political change.

Parliamentary elections are set to be held on Nov. 28, but many fear increasing violence will interrupt elections and could be manipulated by military forces as a means to maintain its hold on power.

The Christian Post reached out to Derek Catsam, a Senior Blogger on African Affairs with the Foreign Policy Association, for his perspective on the weekend violence in Egypt and how the escalating violence might impact Egypt’s democratic transition and its role as a model for the Arab Spring movement.

Catsam believes that as Egypt progresses towards democracy it is likely to be countered by challenges, including the potential for the military to stall a transition to civilian rule. As such, violence in the country is likely to spring up “intermittently for the foreseeable future” and could remain a reality for a long time.

Catsam speculates that the military leadership might have fomented the violence itself and may serve to be counterproductive to the revolution as the military could use escalating violence to “dig in their heels and say, ‘we won’t be pushed out like this.’”

When asked about the prospects for Egypt’s democratic transition, Catsam held that, “we probably should not think in terms of “democracy” or “not democracy.”’

“The question really ought to be (about) the development of democratic structures and systems accompanied by expanding freedom within these countries,” he said.

Although fears abound that the most populace and influential Arab country will run adrift and will hamper democratic transitions in other Arab Spring countries, Catsam holds that if a peaceful transition of power does not occur in Egypt, it does not signal that it will not happen in other countries.

He added, “Obviously renewed and prolonged political violence in Egypt is not good for the region and we can hope that there can be a peaceful resolution accompanied by the military stepping down from power and yielding to democratic leaders.”

However, Catsam holds that in terms of the Arab Spring, it is critical to not confuse “correlation and causality” as each movement has evolved based off of local conditions and circumstances and will continue to depend on conditions evident in each individual country.

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