Egypt, in terms of democracy, is limited. Superficially it contains all the basic requirements of a democracy: a parliament, a president and regular elections. However, "elections do not a democracy make." In Egypt's sordid past it has been occupied, reoccupied and moreover controlled by external forces unique in the Arab world. Strong nationalism has led Egypt through social experiments that failed. Imitation has brought about a parliamentary monarchy cut short by a coup. In the end, "Rule from abroad" was bargained away in favor of a mock form of democracy that in many ways survives today. However, most recently we have seen encouraging changes in Egypt's government that seem to come closer to what we consider a true democracy.
Any fresh discussion of democracy in Egypt should begin at its initial westernization. Eighteenth Century Egypt was chaotic and decentralized. A renewed Mamluk order was the cause of many internal battles within Egypt's own borders. Regions of the country were often controlled independently and from time to time, Mamluks were able to attract enough support that they alone were able to dominate the country. Because of increased trade with Europe one such Mamluk, Ali Bey al-Kabir, was able to gain this support. Under his rule many facets of the military would begin to gain exposure to Western advisors and weaponry. This small amount of westernization was of course precipitated by the invasion of Napoleon. In a piece, "Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East," Bernard Lewis writes, "In 1798, the French Revolution arrived in Egypt in the form of a small expeditionary force commanded by a young general called Napoleon Bonaparte
[representing] the principles of liberty and equality."" These ideas (liberty and equality), Lewis writes mockingly--which were supposedly widespread in western societies at the time--were poorly translated from French to Arabic and as a result misunderstood. The philosophy of these tenants is a great...
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