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Egypt's 'Spoilers' Threaten Democracy

Omar Ashour writes on the necessity to contain "spoilers" — the disaffected political forces that are threatening Egypt’s democratization.
Riot police stand guard during a Confederation of African Football (CAF) Super Cup soccer match between Egypt's Al Ahly and Congo's AC Leopards at Borg El Arab Stadium, west of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, 230 km (143 miles) north of Cairo February 23, 2013. The banner reads, "Martyrs' Place", in reference to the deaths of 74 Al Ahly fans in soccer violence between fans after a match against al-Masry in February last year. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (EGYPT - Tags: SPORT SOCCER CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3E

“The street wars will continue to extreme levels. … We will force this regime to renounce power and succumb to the will of the Egyptian people,” said the man who was voted out by a majority of Egyptians, and earlier removed by popular revolutionary forces. Mubarak’s prime minister and chief henchman Ahmad Shafiq made these statements last December from Abu Dhabi. The statement proved to be true. Politically motivated violence on the streets of Cairo continued, including attacks on city councils, police stations, prisons, headquarters of political parties, and multiple attempts to shut down Egypt’s largest governmental complex in Tahrir Square. This is in addition to almost weekly attacks and arson attempts on the Presidential Palace, where Shafiq’s main rival, President Mohammed Morsi, resides.

The scene in Egypt is quite intricate. There are definitely more than two parties in the power struggle. In a July 2011 BBC article, I expected a usual post-revolution power struggle between Islamist and non-Islamist forces to unfold, with the losing side reneging on democratization process and attempting to spoil it. I showed that the exclusionary behavior among Egypt’s political elite has been a historic trend since Nasser’s coup of 1952, and even before it. What I underestimated is the level of violence associated with the reneging process.

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