Egypt’s Botched Revolution:
Absolutism and the Infelicitous Role of External Actors
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
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Egypt’s political transition entered a new phase with the
military coup in mid-2013: pluralistic tendencies have been systematically
uprooted and the Egyptian armed forces have positioned themselves as a
determining political force.
Several external actors, driven by a diverse set of
interests, have a stake in this process. The EU tries to accommodate its own
ideals of open societies with emerging threat perceptions. The US position is
dominated by hard security considerations based on military cooperation with
Egypt. The Gulf monarchies, on the other hand, need a firewall against
non-authoritarian political systems and the Muslim Brotherhood alike.
Since the military coup, a patriotic discourse on foreign
interests weakening the nation rose to the fore, fully embraced by Egypt’s
mainstream media and shaping public perceptions of external influences.
In practice, no external player genuinely supported a
democratic transition, due to uncertainty about Egypt’s political stability.
The EU’s stance was also affected by lack of influence and reluctance to use
existing leverage, while for the pro-authoritarian Gulf countries it was a
matter of principle.
The Gulf monarchies play a pivotal role through their
financial support of the Egyptian government. Yet this aid is tied to
substantial political dimensions: the Gulf countries have strategic regional
goals related to the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and, more generally, an anti-pluralistic
Eventually, anti-Islamist, regime stability and hard
security considerations have been conflated, both domestically and
internationally, resulting in the persecution of the entire spectrum of
political opposition in Egypt.