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Ivan Bocharov

Referent at the Russian International Affairs Council

Ten years ago, on January 25, 2011, anti-government protests began in Egypt. The massive demonstrations took place on the Day of Anger in Tahrir Square and spread throughout the Arab Republic soon. The events of late January and early February 2011 led to the government's resignation, then to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak and the transfer of power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The Muslim Brotherhood was the most organized and influential opposition force in Egypt. The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, won the elections to the Egyptian parliament. During the presidential campaign, Mohammed Morsi proposed the adoption of a constitution based on Sharia law. Then, after becoming president, he made several amendments to the country's constitution. It significantly expanded the powers of the head of state. In the summer of 2013, Mohammed Morsi and his supporters were arrested in a military coup led by Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In the winter of 2011, Egyptians took to the streets with demands for political and economic reforms. They were tired of Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years, as well as high unemployment and lack of political competition. Despite the successful revolution, over the past ten years after the Arab Spring, the Egyptian state has become even more authoritarian than under Hosni Mubarak. After the June 30 revolution, the Authorities unleashed a lethal strategy of repression against Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Tens of thousands of political prisoners ended up in Egyptian prisons. Besides, pressure on independent media has increased. In 2010, Egypt was ranked 127th in the World Press Freedom Index, and by 2020 it dropped to 166th. Nevertheless, the results of research carried out by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (Qatar) show that 66% of Egyptians assess the political situation in the Arab Republic positively and only 23% negatively.

According to some economic indicators, the country was inferior to pre-revolutionary Egypt in 2019. In 2010, the inflation rate was 10.1%, in 2019 it was 13.6%. In 2017, the inflation rate set a record since 1982 and reached 22.9%. In 2010, external debt amounted to 17.1% of gross national income, in 2019 it already reached 39.4%, and in 2018 an anti-record was set since 1996 and it was 41%. However, now there is practically no accurate data that would assess the damage to the economy caused by the COVID-19 virus.

The last decade has been a rather difficult period in the modern history of Egypt. The Arab Republic has gone through two revolutions, and amendments to the constitution were adopted twice. The level of the terrorist threat has increased, the demographic problem has worsened, and in 2020, Egypt faced the coronavirus pandemic, like other countries. The new Egyptian authorities tried to solve the problems that arose even before the Arab spring. However, not all plans were realized. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's tightening grip and economic stagnation are raising the issue of whether the events of 2011 are likely to repeat themselves.

According to the research of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, 58% of the Arabs surveyed positively assess the outcome of the Arab Spring, it is the highest rate since 2012-2013. Moreover, among the inhabitants of Egypt and Sudan, the proportion of such people is the highest and amounts to 75%. On the one hand, now the Egyptians have examples of Libya, Yemen, and Syria, which prove that the next Arab spring may not end as successfully as the previous one. On the other hand, uncontrolled population growth, poverty, radicalization, and the economic crisis caused by the pandemic can provoke an increase in social tensions. In the event of new shocks and deterioration of the socio-economic situation in Egypt, ISIS terrorists and representatives of other radical groups can destabilize the situation in the country.

Ten years ago, on January 25, 2011, anti-government protests began in Egypt. The massive demonstrations took place on the Day of Anger in Tahrir Square and spread throughout the Arab Republic soon. The events of late January and early February 2011 led to the government's resignation, then to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak and the transfer of power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The Muslim Brotherhood was the most organized and influential opposition force in Egypt. The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, won the elections to the Egyptian parliament. During the presidential campaign, Mohammed Morsi proposed the adoption of a constitution based on Sharia law. Then, after becoming president, he made several amendments to the country's constitution. It significantly expanded the powers of the head of state. In the summer of 2013, Mohammed Morsi and his supporters were arrested in a military coup led by Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In the winter of 2011, Egyptians took to the streets with demands for political and economic reforms. They were tired of Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years, as well as high unemployment and lack of political competition. Despite the successful revolution, over the past ten years after the Arab Spring, the Egyptian state has become even more authoritarian than under Hosni Mubarak. After the June 30 revolution, the Authorities unleashed a lethal strategy of repression against Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Tens of thousands of political prisoners ended up in Egyptian prisons. Besides, pressure on independent media has increased. In 2010, Egypt was ranked 127th in the World Press Freedom Index, and by 2020 it dropped to 166th. Nevertheless, the results of research carried out by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (Qatar) show that 66% of Egyptians assess the political situation in the Arab Republic positively and only 23% negatively.

Over the past ten years, there have been two reorientations of Egyptian foreign policy. When the Muslim Brotherhood came to power after the Arab Spring, the new Egyptian leadership received support from Turkey and Qatar. However, in 2013, the relationship between them was ruined. Following the overthrow of Mohammad Morsi, Turkey offered refuge and protection to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and launched a media campaign against the new government of the Arab Republic of Egypt. In response, Egypt gave the Turkish ambassador 48 hours to leave the country.

The counter-revolution of 2013 was supported by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. After the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt began to develop a strategic partnership with the Arab Monarchies. At the same time, in relations between Egypt and the United States, tensions rose. The international community, represented by the American president, the EU and UN representatives, immediately responded to the suppression of mass demonstrations by supporters of Mohammed Morsi, who took to the streets of Cairo after the military coup. After the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohammad Badie and the foreign ministers of the 28 EU countries gathered for an emergency meeting. The topic of discussion was the possible introduction of an arms embargo against the Arab Republic of Egypt. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jane Psaki announced a revision of some of the aid programs for the nongovernmental sector in Egypt.

The deterioration of relations with traditional allies and strategic partners largely contributed to the intensification of military-political interaction with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as military-technical cooperation with Russia and China. Compared to 2010 and 2011, Egypt is pursuing a more independent course now. Its foreign policy is aimed at ensuring national security, mainly at protecting the border with Libya, as well as curbing the growing influence of Turkey in the region.

Despite the political and socio-economic upheavals that Egypt has faced over the past ten years, an analysis of some economic indicators shows certain stabilization of the country after the Arab spring. And in some aspects, the situation has become even better than on the eve of the 2011 revolution. For example, in 2010, GDP growth was 5.1% and fell to 1.8% the following year. Since then, there has been a gradual increase in the indicator's value, up to 5.6% in 2019. In 2010, GDP per capita was USD 2 646, in 2019 it reached USD 3 019. In the first years after the Arab Spring, there was an increase in the value of the indicator—to USD 3 563 in 2015.

From 2007 to 2011, foreign direct investment has steadily declined, and from 2012 to 2019, it has almost grown. In 2010, on the eve of the Arab Spring, the unemployment rate in Egypt was 8.8%. After the revolution, in January 2011, it increased to 11.8%. In 2013, unemployment peaked at 13.2% and has seen a decline since then. In 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment rate was 10.1%, the lowest since 2011.

Economic success has been achieved largely thanks to new investment from abroad, including from the Arab Monarchies and China. Egypt also received loans from the IMF. The efforts of the Egyptian government were focused on the development of large industrial projects, including the industrial zone in the Suez Canal region and the El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant, which is being built by Rosatom. In addition, the construction of a new capital of the country began, the channel of the Suez Canal was expanded and deepened.

The political destabilization of 2011 and 2013, the civil war in neighbouring Libya, and major terrorist attacks have undermined business dynamics. The most tangible blow was dealt in the tourism industry, in which revenues constituted a significant part of the Egyptian budget. The explosion of a Russian plane in the skies over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015 forced Russia, the UK and some other countries to limit air traffic with Egypt. The coronavirus pandemic also negatively affected the development of the tourism sector of the economy.

Over the past ten years, the population of Egypt has increased from 82 to 100 million. However, the economic potential of the state is not growing at the same rapid pace, and the possibilities for the development of agriculture remain limited. This is one of the important reasons for the rise in poverty rates. Now approximately 33% of Egyptians live on less than USD 45 a month.

According to some economic indicators, the country was inferior to pre-revolutionary Egypt in 2019. In 2010, the inflation rate was 10.1%, in 2019 it was 13.6%. In 2017, the inflation rate set a record since 1982 and reached 22.9%. In 2010, external debt amounted to 17.1% of gross national income, in 2019 it already reached 39.4%, and in 2018 an anti-record was set since 1996 and it was 41%. However, now there is practically no accurate data that would assess the damage to the economy caused by the COVID-19 virus.

The last decade has been a rather difficult period in the modern history of Egypt. The Arab Republic has gone through two revolutions, and amendments to the constitution were adopted twice. The level of the terrorist threat has increased, the demographic problem has worsened, and in 2020, Egypt faced the coronavirus pandemic, like other countries. The new Egyptian authorities tried to solve the problems that arose even before the Arab spring. However, not all plans were realized. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's tightening grip and economic stagnation are raising the issue of whether the events of 2011 are likely to repeat themselves.

According to the research of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, 58% of the Arabs surveyed positively assess the outcome of the Arab Spring, it is the highest rate since 2012-2013. Moreover, among the inhabitants of Egypt and Sudan, the proportion of such people is the highest and amounts to 75%. On the one hand, now the Egyptians have examples of Libya, Yemen, and Syria, which prove that the next Arab spring may not end as successfully as the previous one. On the other hand, uncontrolled population growth, poverty, radicalization, and the economic crisis caused by the pandemic can provoke an increase in social tensions. In the event of new shocks and deterioration of the socio-economic situation in Egypt, ISIS terrorists and representatives of other radical groups can destabilize the situation in the country.

First published in Russian on NEWS.ru.


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