On January 25, 2011, brave Egyptians began pouring into the streets demanding the resignation of strongman President Hosni Mubarak and “bread, freedom, and social justice.” On February 11, in the face of mass protests, the army forced Mubarak to step down, ending his thirty-year dictatorship. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), composed of the military’s top leadership, immediately assumed control over the government, promising a democratic transition. Seventeen months later it grudgingly ceded some power to a freely elected parliament and president from the Muslim Brotherhood. Between Mubarak’s ouster and the military’s July 3, 2013 coup against President Mohamed Morsi, there were moments when a genuine transition to democracy seemed possible. But after the coup, a new military-backed dictatorship took power, led by coup leader and former Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. His regime has extinguished all politics and taken repression to levels not seen in Egypt in decades.

Egyptians and foreign analysts continue to debate what went wrong after February 2011. To add to these reflections, POMED asked 14 experts to respond concisely to the following question:

Looking back nine years later, what in your view was the primary reason for the failure of Egypt’s short democratic experiment? 


Read the Expert Q&A with responses from:

  • Zeinab Abul-Magd

    Professor of History at Oberlin College and author of many works on Egypt, including Militarizing the Nation: The Army, Business, and Revolution in Egypt (2017)

  • Khalil Al-Anani

    Senior Fellow, Arab Center Washington DC; and Associate Professor of Political Science, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies

  • Nagwan AlAshwal

    PhD researcher at European University Institute, Italy

  • Abdelrahman Ayyash

    Egyptian activist and researcher focusing on human rights and Islamic movements in the Middle East

  • Sahar Aziz

    Professor of Law, Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar, and Middle East and Legal Studies Scholar at Rutgers University Law School; and Founding Director of the Rutgers Center for Security, Race and Rights

  • Steven Cook

    Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square (2012)

  • Michele Dunne

    Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

  • Ezzedine Choukri Fishere

    Senior lecturer at Dartmouth College, a novelist, and a former diplomat

  • Hafsa Halawa

    Nonresident Scholar at the Middle East Institute

  • Shadi Hamid

    Senior Fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution; and author of Islamic Exceptionalism (2017) and Temptations of Power (2014)

  • Michael Hanna

    Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the New York University School of Law

  • Bahey eldin Hassan

    Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

  • Amy Hawthorne

    Deputy Director for Research at the Project on Middle East Democracy

  • William Quandt

    Professor Emeritus of Politics at the University of Virginia and author of numerous books on the Middle East and North Africa

PDF available here.


Photo: Gigi Ibrahim/Wikimedia Commons