Saturday, March 05, 2011

What kind of government can Egypt expect to establish now?

With all the revolutionary activity and removal of current governments going on in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula, the question naturally arises about what kind of government will follow. Bruce Ackerman has addressed that question and provided some interesting insights. His teaser at Balkinization lays the basic issue out very clearly. A presidential system like that in France or the U.S. flows directly from the nature of the revolution it came from. That revolution produced clear leaders who became a charismatic head of state. Either that head of state "constitutionalizes his charisma" into a Presidential system or that a charismatic dictatorship is the likely outcome. But in either case, there had to be a known opposition leader to take the position of leader.

In Egypt there has been a leaderless revolution. Mubarak's dictatorship successfully repressed the opposition until it collapsed. There is no organized opposition to take over from Mubarak. Ackerman says that in this case:
a parliamentary system provides a far more promising constitutional transition to democracy than its presidential counterpart. The presidential form requires the revolutionaries to anoint a single leader prematurely -- thereby preempting a desirable period of democratic contestation, in which rival leaders compete for power. In contrast, a parliamentary system allows a number of political parties to project a number of different leaders onto the stage under conditions of relative equality, allowing them to present a set of competing options in a series of coalition governments.
Then he points out one major problem in the Egyptian situation:
The case for parliamentarianism is especially compelling in Egypt, since the Mubarak regime was selectively repressive – crushing secular dissent but allowing the Moslem Brotherhood to survive as the only organized opposition group.
This appears to be a good argument for Egypt to establish a parliamentarian system rather than a Presidential system. But whatever the case, the fact of the revolution having removed Mubarak does not in any way guarantee that Egypt will become the democracy the Egyptians really want. Egypt has a long way to go.

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