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Military rule: The biggest threat to Egyptian democracy

The West is worried about the Muslim Brotherhood, but it should be just as concerned about Egypt's armed forces taking power, says Ellis Goldberg in Foreign Affairs

In the wake of President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, Egyptian protesters are celebrating their victory — but the next steps in the country's transition remain unclear. "The West may be worried that the crisis will bring democracy too quickly to Egypt and empower the Muslim Brotherhood," writes Ellis Goldberg in Foreign Affairs. But "the real concern" should be the prospect that the new government will expel only corrupt civilian members, leaving the military in control. That, says Goldberg, would complete a "slow-motion coup" that effectively began in 1952 and sped up in recent weeks, as Egypt's armed forces went from "applauded bystander to steering force" in the uprising. Here, an excerpt from Goldberg's argument:

"Today, the army presents itself as a force of order and a neutral arbiter between contending opponents, but it has significant interests of its own to defend, and it is not, in fact, neutral. The basic structure of the Egyptian state as it now exists has benefited the military. The practical demands of the protesters seem fairly simple: end the state of emergency, hold new elections, and grant the freedom to form parties without state interference. But these demands would amount to opening up the political space to everyone across Egypt's social and political structure. That would involve constitutional and statutory changes, such as reforming Egypt as a parliamentary rather than a presidential system, in which a freely elected majority selects the prime minister (who is now appointed by the president). These changes would wipe away the power structure the army created in 1952 and has backed since....

...the army may step in as a transitional power and recognize that, as much as it might like to, it cannot return to complete control. The Egyptian military is far more professional and educated than it was in the 1950s, so many officers may recognize the benefits of a democracy. More likely, however, is the culmination of the slow-motion coup and the return of the somewhat austere military authoritarianism of decades past.

Read the entire story in Foreign Affairs.

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