Egypt: economic and political devaluation

Egypt: economic and political devaluation

We are here in Cairo for the conference “The Middle East after Revolutions,” which marks the launch of the academic Arabic journal Ro’uya Turkiyya, published by one of Turkey’s leading think tanks SETA.
The most important thing we felt walking Cairo streets in the first year of the revolution was a sense of Egypt being trapped between fear and hope. The most tangible manifestation of this feeling is the ambiguity being experienced right now. Mubarak’s quiet withdrawal accepting defeat in the face of civil disobedience, a withdrawal that surprised even the revolutionaries themselves, marked the beginning of this ambiguity. 

Mubarak never had power. On the contrary, the power had Mubarak. When that power sanctioned Mubarak’s retreat by not standing behind him, the field the old regime had to vacate was not much. The judiciary, military, bureaucracy, police, universities and the capital escaped the dismissals they were due. And this prevented the feeling of fundamental change both at the societal and governmental levels. It is said the elders in rural Egypt are still warning the young who express their anti-Mubarak feelings, “Be careful, Mubarak might hear you.” 

It seems this warning is not contained to the words of the elder in rural areas. Those who got their candidates elected as parliamentarians, and those, most of whom are the new actors of Egypt, act and speak with the same caution. They are endeavoring to break out of the ambiguity left behind by a Mubarak who was not overthrown but withdrew. Even the party that hailed out of the elections with an excruciating victory is discussing not their own rule but the possibility of a coalition. No one wants to take responsibility. It is almost as if they are afraid of the collapse of a regime that was not demolished by the revolution during their own rule. 

Therefore, Tahrir nowadays is not only a space for those who are celebrating the anniversary of the revolution but also a convenient place to hide for those who want to escape responsibility. It seems the power transferred to Tahrir with the revolution allowed for the construction of quite a virtual freedom-oriented liberal world. However, it is not their job to deal with Egypt’s intertwined problems from the economy to the military tutelage or from unending elections to constitutional crisis. Unless those whose job it is to attend these problems take the governing of the country from the military, the powers of the street will continue to increase uncontrollably – just like the stadium disaster last Wednesday night precipitated by the feeling of a lack of the state apparatus. 

Egypt is grappling with a political and economic crisis. Financially, the coming months will be critical for Egypt. It may face a jarring devaluation. It might not have been this bad if some fundamental preventative measures everyone talked about seven or eight months ago were actually taken. Similarly, every day that passes without the military not handing off the power, a system of government not being decided, a Cabinet not being built increases the risk of political devaluation. If this happens, the value of each vote Egyptians gave in the name of the revolution will lose its power of representation. And this is a loss that is hard to compensate.