By Phillip Davis
At 4:30 p.m. on Friday, October 16, Dr. Carrie Whickam delivered a lecture entitled “The Future of Democracy in Egypt” in Gailor Hall. Dr. Whickam is associate professor of Political Science at Emory University, having received her A.B. from Harvard College as well as her M.A. and her Ph.D from Princeton University.
Organized by the University Lectures Committee, the Mellon Globalization Forum, and the departments of History and Politics, the talk assessed Egypt’s chances of transitioning to a stable democracy in the near future, following four years of post-revolution tumult and the relatively recent ascension of a new tyrant to its presidency. “What was once cautious optimism [about Egypt’s fate],” remarked the event’s introductory speaker, Nick Roberts, “now seems to be deep pessimism.”
Dr. Whickam began by examining the revolution’s past, asking who is to blame for the rise of Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi, the country’s current president, and his “full-blown authoritarian regime.” Some, she explains, claim that the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political party that operated in secret during the term of pre-revolution president Hosni Mubarak, were too arrogant to work well with secular partners, and that their president, Muhammad Morsi, was both “incompetent” and “unpopular” during his time in office. On the other hand, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood claim that their attempts at reform faithfully fulfilled a “mandate from the [Egyptian] people,” but were neutered by powerful bureaucrats leftover from Mubarak’s regime, who wouldn’t heed Morsi’s calls for cooperation.
Whoever’s fault it is, Dr. Whickam describes Egypt’s near-term prospects as “pretty bleak.” She says that in successful democratic revolutions in the Arab world (such as Tunisia’s) extremist groups have been less powerful, leaders more willing to compromise, and the so-called “deep state” far less ingrained than they are in Egypt.
After her lecture, Dr. Whickam answered questions from the audience with impressive clarity and deep insight, recounting more personal stories about her trips to Cairo and interviews with members of the Muslim Brotherhood.