Egypt faces an immense challenge

Egypt faces an immense challenge. We may now see a proper liberal constitution being written enshrining equality, freedom of assembly, expression and religion: principles severely trampled upon under Morsi. But the return of Islamists and their doctrines to a democratic government of Egypt seems inevitable. With it the desire to turn Egypt into an Islamic nation in violation of those principles.

For parliamentary elections, the Islamic parties are far better organized: the Brotherhood’s loss can become the Salafist’s gain. The Brotherhood will then have to enter a coalition most likely with the Salafis who didn’t abandon them for Tahrir. It seems very possible that such a coalition will secure a majority of the vote.

The secular, urban and modern Egyptians don’t have the political discipline to properly organize themselves. They continue to look for the army to ultimately represent their interests and this keeps their organizations infantile. Each round however the Islamists will have to reevaluate their organization and strivings again and will be strengthened.

I don’t see how Egypt can mature into say a Turkish-style democracy anytime soon. The Turkish AK party despite the recent events around Taksim is a far more inclusive affair and the Turks are much more aligned in their national strivings than the Egyptians. Many Turks even those who don’t want to join the EU see the EU’s principles as necessary ingredients for Turkish growth. What Egypt needs is a period of calm during which the Brotherhood can go to Turkey and learn from the AK after which one must hope an Erdogan-like person can assume the presidency and reform the party into an Islamic-democratic group more like the AK.

The demographic and economic timebomb under all of this is ticking away though. Youth unemployment is some 30% and growing. Population density is effectively at 2000 individuals per square kilometer and growing. Food imports account for half of what Egyptians eat and despite a great harvest in 2012 is also set to grow. The current account is in deficit with the balance dropping, putting energy and food imports at risk.

The next government will need to start addressing those challenges right away, implementing unpopular measures that may see discontented voters flock to Tahrir square once more. Many Islamists will feel the Brotherhood never had the chance to prove its mettle, and the pain that the economy will continue to generate will feed their agenda.