Immediately after the Egyptian army issued its 48-hour ultimatum to political actors to set down their differences or else the army would initiate its own roadmap, in a thinly disguised threat to President Mohamed Morsi to step down, people started making comparisons with the Algerian army. Back in 1991, Algeria's armed forces stepped in and annulled the results of the parliamentary elections, thus preventing the Islamist Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) from reaping the results of their electoral victory. Egypt, according to this comparison, is about to enter in a cycle of violence due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s feeling that it has been deeply wronged and denied the opportunity to run the country.

I don’t think this comparison holds for the following reasons:

1. Back in 1991, the Algerian government's Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) suspended the elections immediately after the first round had showed a clear Islamist victory. The FIS never had a chance of forming a government. In Egypt, the situation is different. The Muslim Brotherhood did win, occupy the presidency, dominate Parliament and form a government. It is their disastrous mismanagement, and not a military fiat, that caused their downfall. According to reliable opinion polls, Morsi lost half his own die-hard constituency in his first year in office.

2. The Algerian elections were not the result of a revolution the way the Egyptian elections were. This matters a lot, since part of the reason behind Morsi’s fall from grace is that he and his organization were not attentive enough to the aims of the revolution, and in many respects have even betrayed these aims.

3. Egypt’s Islamists have already had their taste of violence. Throughout the 1990s, militant Islamist groups conducted a ferocious military campaign against the Egyptian state (the police, not the army), and ended up failing. Their leaders admitted that that was the wrong strategy.

4. Egypt is still in a revolutionary moment (witness June 30’s huge demonstrations), something that was missing in Algeria in 1991. The revolution, especially the youth, is what prompted the army to issue its declaration. In other words, the army is also cornered and is not acting independently, despite all appearances to the contrary. Youth still have the momentum, and everyone else is reacting to them.

This does not mean that there won’t be Egyptian Islamists who would like to revenge a wounded psyche. The sense of victimhood runs very deep in the psychology of the Brotherhood, and the latest events will only exacerbate it. And with the political situation very volatile, with the economy in shambles and with so many weapons lying around, it is not difficult to imagine violence breaking up. It is also not farfetched for Islamists to use the sectarian card and inflame the situation even more. Some may adopt an "après moi, le deluge" mentality, just like the feloul (remnants of the Mubarak regime) have been trying to do for two and a half years. Still, for the reasons mentioned above, I don’t think this will lead to a full blown civil war.

Comments

Disappointing

I cannot believe this text was written by Prof. Fahmy.
Mismanagement is unfortunately the rule, not the exception in transitional democracies; it has been so in my country and the military did not step in because of that.
The point is not an Algeria-like scenario, but the fact that a precedent has been set in Egypt for future military interventions (violent or not) and the fact that eventual new voting rules may create hindrances for Islamist candidates in elections (according to what has been leaked so far of the military roadmap: "strict rules for parliamentary candidates"). I have the bad feeling that the rigging process will be transfered from the voting center (where it was until 2010) to the candidate selection process. I may be wrong, but if it is so, people in Egypt and abroad will realize it very soon.
Moreover, what are "the aims of the revolution"? Everyone knows the new government will have to take painful measures (IMF package, subsidies cut, etc.) so that Egypt may receive investments again. Social justice will have to wait, regardless of who is in power.
Bottom line is that Egyptian liberals as a whole never accepted Morsi from the very beginning, no matter what he did or did not do. They would grasp at the first opportunity to oust him by illegal means, and grasp they did.
Are Egyptians going to reject legitimate ballot results until they have a Mr. Palatable as President and a Parliament filled with the likes of him? Go ahead, twist the rules of the game. Just do not expect people to take that system seriously as a democracy or even as a liberal regime. It will be a military regime all over again, just with civilian foreheads.

Enlightening Comparison

Appreciate the enlightening comparison which considers the context of the February 2011 revolution in Egypt. Makes sense. However, one question: how to explain the necessary role of the Egyptian military to call for power-sharing? I do think it was foolish for the FJP to reject invitations to meet with the opposition after several members of the cabinet resigned. Clearly, survival instinct should've triggered "compromise" when discontent increased so publicly.

Looking for early warning signs

Perhaps not a civil war, but surely conditions are ripe for an (initially) limited armed insurgency, one that could scale to a size comparable to Algeria, if not larger.

Addressing each of your stated reasons:

1. Not only did they win elections, they saw their project begin to materialize before their very own eyes. I imagine the MB now feel more wronged than the FIS did. They now know it's possible, one way or another. The potential for radicalization amongst MB supporters is now higher than ever, and it is precisely these radical fringe groups that could form the basis of an insurgency.

2. Whether we like it or not, the Islamists' foot soldiers took part in the first phase of the revolution, including taking up key positions and sometimes leading on the front lines, especially on Feb. 2, 2011. The revolution is precisely why they will continue to have a rallying call. They were the most persecuted group prior to 2011, so they have the most to lose.

3. Upon deciding to try the political route, did you not expect them to declare the previous choice a mistake? What's to stop them now from stating that the political choice was a mistake?

4. With all due respect, I don't really see your point here. Youthful energy can easily be channeled in any direction, most easily for insurgent recruitment when coupled with a sense of victimhood.

I am not warning of a movement that would have popular support, but a group of spoilers whose actions could have catastrophic consequences for the rest. Some more reasons why the prospect of armed insurgency is not unlikely:

1. The massive proliferation of arms since early 2011 across the nation, not to mention the region.

2. The fact that we are back to square one with regards to the Interior Ministry, and that it will not be be welcomed by the Sinai tribes, thereby providing a safe haven for insurgents, exactly where the military is at its weakest.

3. Does anyone really think the MB and other Islamists didn't have a contingency plan the minute they allied with the military? This could all be seen coming, months, if not years in advance. I'd rather be cautious and assume they do have a plan B, or even that an insurgency could develop despite their desire or control.

The tragic brilliance with which the military has been maneuvering (and of course often choreographing) events since Jan. 28 2011, albeit with relatively minor mishaps, is remarkable, but that does not mean it can fully predict or prevent the worst case scenario. Only with an even tighter security state than Mubarak's would that be possible.

Whether we are likely to see an armed insurgency in the near future is unlikely. The security apparatus now has its guard up, but when it inevitably puts it down, we'll have an answer to that question.

Egyptians are at risk !

In your analysis, you forgot an important event: the Algerian people made démonstrations on October, 1988 to demand the end of single-party regime - today we talk about revolution! The Algerians were repressed in a bloodbath by the army under a media blackout, because at the time, the internet and social networks did not exist. In 1989, a new constitution was promulgated, opening the political arena to the multi-party system and free elections. The military coup of January 12, 1992 abruptly ended the democratic process. The will of the Algerian generals to purge society of any protest movement and Algeria plunged into a "dirty war". Using the radicalization of Islamist party, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DRS) at the time led by General Mohamed Médiène assisted by the General Smail Lamari implemented a real machine to kill. Thus the "Armed Islamic Group" appeared, spreading terror throughout the country .... Today, Egyptians are unfortunately not immune to this kind of manipulation intended to stop their revolution!

Number 3 at least is wrong-

Number 3 at least is wrong- there was a small Islamist movement in the early 1980s in Algeria and some Algerian Islamists, although not many, had previously fought for the Taliban in the 1980s. A popular revolution in Algeria led to the regime opening up the one-party system to multiple parties (Algerianist Hugh Roberts has argued, though, that the people that took to the streets during Algeria's October 1988 revolution were not pressing for concrete political reforms but were rather expressing disdain at the failed socialist system), so Dr. Fahmy's second point is also somewhat inaccurate. There are certainly differences, however, and they do bear mentioning.

thanks for sharing

thanks for sharing
sure egypt is not Algeria and algeria is not egypt but here is my comments about what he said
About the 1st reason it's tru in algeria it was stopped at the beginning but in egypt was after one year which is more disastrous and it was not the FLN party of the gov who did suspend the electoral process but the Army ( Khaled nezzar minister of defense in that era )
2- completely wrong you are not the 1st to make a civil revolution neither other arab spring countries ...read about the berber spring in Algeria 1982, read about october strikes and many others strikes.
3-violence requires violence and the police state of mubarak pushed Islamists to use violence.
4-sorry i call the 25th of jan a revolution but not the 30th of june ...30th of june devided the society and the army was doing the dirty job to get rid of Morsi and MB ..that's all

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