Contesting Democracy: Discursive Patterns Before and After the Egyptian Uprising


University of Aberdeen

European commitments to democracy-promotion in Egypt, while laudable in principle, have often translated into practices which have alienated the country’s pro-democracy opposition groups. Many of these were central to the January Uprising (April 6th, independent trade unions, etc.) particularly before January 27th, when the Muslim Brotherhood leadership still opposed the demonstrations, and have been one of the most important sources of pressure on the post-uprising regime. Yet these groups have often felt alienated by the EU’s approach to democracy promotion. Based on documentary analysis, interviews and extensive participant observation, this paper outlines and analyses the perceptions of Left-wing groups before and after the uprising, illustrating the rationales behind their perception of what is seen as European reluctance to support independent opposition groups. Underpinning these perceptions is a different vision of what constitutes democracy for these groups, particularly informed by broadly social democratic or socialist conceptions of social justice, from the perspective of which liberal commitments – in the economic realm more than in the political – appear minimalist at best and as facades at worst. Moreover, European practices of democracy-promotion are perceived to eschew genuine opposition groups in favour of less politically problematic but merely ‘pseudo-democratic’ GONGOs.