Praetorian Parliamentarism: The contradictions of Egypt’s post-revolutionary experiment


Coventry University

This paper aims to provide an assessment of the early effects of the 25 January Revolution on the structures of the Egyptian state.  It will start from the premise that a popular uprising obtains a revolutionary outcome only insofar as it causes structural alterations at the level of state institutions.  In this regard, the Revolution of 2011 will be conceptualised as an incomplete process of socio-political transformation that brought about only partial change to the postcolonial Egyptian state.

The paper’s core argument will develop in two stages.  First, it will stress that, as a disrupted process, the January Revolution has deformed the structures of the Egyptian state in a manner that has enhanced both its authoritarian and democratic elements simultaneously.  This paradoxical effect, it will be argued, has unleashed a post-revolutionary search for a settlement along the lines of what I propose to call “Praetorian Parliamentarism”.  This imagined political system assumes that power can be shared between the army and parliament in an orderly and peaceful manner.

The second part of the argument will underline the tensions within the Egyptian state which have arisen out of the post-revolutionary experiment of power-sharing between the army and the majority Islamist parties.  Without ruling out the possibility that Praetorian Parliamentarism could sustain itself for a transitional period of some length, the paper will conclude that instability and crisis will become permanent features of Egypt’s political system until a more functional arrangement is found at the level of state-society relations.