Egypt: Army’s Role in a Democracy
Egypt has taken drastic steps and made many sacrifices to move forward towards becoming a fully-fledged democracy. The first step of the nation’s journey was the January Revolution that was a turning point from tyranny to social justice. Egypt’s past is not just made up of dictatorial rule; during the eras of the last three rulers the Egyptian army has been in the background, steadily accruing wealth and power.
The role of the army is to protect the nation’s borders and population and to fulfill this role it should be strong, efficient and well-resourced. However, armies behave and respond differently from one country to another. Many soldiers in the Syrian army obeyed President Assad and turned on their own people with full force. Egyptian military stood out since the beginning of the revolution in January 2011, as strong and loyal to its people.
As Egypt moves closer and closer toward democracy important decisions are being made concerning the role of the army, which is essentially related to warfare, rather than administration of the country. Egypt is still in the transitional period, but the political arena of Egypt is moving away from military intervention, as a new government will soon take on the role of decision-making in the nation’s best interests. It is feared that if the army continually manages the nation, a culture of war will emerge and true democracy will never be achieved.
Since its last war with Israel in 1973, the Egyptian army has hardly fired a single shot. The army is now focusing all its attention on resolving issues at home and opted not to take part in any intervention in Libya despite having the capability of playing a significant role.
The Egyptian army was very close to the regime under Mubarak and it has accrued a lot of wealth as well as receiving huge amounts of American aid. Separating the government from the military and sharing out decision-making powers is a challenge. Some might say it is time to cut down on the army’s numbers, costs and privileges. At the same time, the Egyptian army hopes for constitutional provisions that will retain its authority and protect its budget.
The Egyptian army played a vital role in ousting Mubarak from power but the question remains whether this great act gives it the right to intervene in Egypt’s political future, and if so, how much.
Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) assures the Egyptian people that the nation is now stable enough and suitable for foreign investments,indicating that Egypt is on the way to stepping out of the transitional era that requires the political presence of the military. Also, with a significant minority group like the Copts in Egypt cooperating and merging with the MB both politically and socially , the way seems to be paved for individuals and groups to sustain Egypt’s political well-being without the need for continuous military intervention that could, at worst, become an integral part of Egypt’s political processes.
With Egypt moving more confidently into democracy the time will soon come when the military’s role needs to be downsized, not expanded.