Raymond Stock, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Forum, is a Middle East political analyst and scholar. A resident of Cairo for two decades, he has written extensively about Egypt and the Middle East in The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and the Middle East Quarterly. His biography on Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature, is being published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. On July 30, 2013, Mr. Stock briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call.
The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government after one year at the helm was due to President Morsi's frenzied consolidation of power, which alienated Egypt's most important institutions - the army, the judiciary, and the media. By seeking to indoctrinate Egyptian society with Brotherhood ideology while ignoring the country's dire economic predicament Morsi drove the masses yet again to the streets on a larger scale than in the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising, with seven to one demonstrating against the Brotherhood.
For his part General Abdel Fattah Sisi may have been driven to this drastic move by a distrust of the Muslim Brotherhood's ability to handle the Islamist project and his belief that Morsi was endangering it by moving too far, too hard and too fast to consolidate power. An Islamist but also a nationalist, Sisi's views are possibly more aligned with those of the Salafi Nour Party and the pre-2011 Revolution quietist philosophy of transforming Egyptian society from within. In a 2006 thesis he wrote while studying at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania he made the case for a democratic government with an Islamic basis - an Islamist democracy.
This in turn means that Egypt is nowhere near its post-Islamist phase. Though appointing a government of secularists, Sisi insisted on retaining the foremost Islamist tenets of the suspended constitution, though it is not clear that he retained its vesting of the clergy, rather than the state, with the power to interpret laws as Shari'a compliant. Nor did ordinary Egyptians reject the Brotherhood government for ideological reasons: they did so because of its dictatorial style and economic failure. Still, the two Islamist parties' 75% majority in the first stage of the 2011-12 presidential elections seems to have dropped to just a plurality. Only half the electorate voted in the second phase, and only a little more than half voted for Morsi; an even smaller percentage favored the constitutional changes proposed by the Islamists last December.
All in all, Mr. Stock suggested that, as Robert Springborg wrote in a recent article, Sisi's Egypt could be heading toward a hybrid system of Islamism and militarism along the Pakistani model rather than a post-Islamist phase.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Associate Fellow with the Middle East Forum