Writing the New Rules of the Game
In Egypt, the next important battles over the political future will be waged with law books and computer keyboards.
The fledgling democracies in Egypt and Tunisia that emerged from the Arab Spring face extraordinary challenges in the months and years ahead. In democratizing countries, the institutions you start out with and the process you use to reform them can take on inordinate importance. The electoral system, the method of revising the constitution, and the sequencing of the reform agenda all affect which forces will be advantaged and which disadvantaged, and whether the outcome is likely to be democratic or not.
The prospects are much brighter in Tunisia, where the transitional regime has been consulting widely with the country’s contending political groups as it charts a way forward. Egypt, the largest Arab country and traditionally the center of the Arab world, is the cause of far more anxiety. The Egyptian military has been calling the shots since jubilant crowds cheered President Hosni Mubarak’s departure in Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square in February, and it is off to an inauspicious start. It has made important decisions without consulting with parties and people from the full political spectrum, scheduling legislative elections for September, with presidential elections to follow in November.
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Donald L. Horowitz, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science at Duke University. He is the author of several books, including Ethnic Groups in Conflict (2000) and The Deadly Ethnic Riot (2001). His new book, Indonesia’s Path to Constitutional Democracy, will be published next year.more from this author >>