In an essay in Foreign Affairs last spring, I wrote about the obstacles impeding the emergence of a more liberal polity in Egypt. Although popular demands for political change have intensified in the past decade, the prospects for reform remain dim.
Over the years, foreign observers have argued that Egyptians favor political change by parsing the statements and actions of Egyptian activists of all stripes: the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, a small group of liberals, Nasserist holdovers, judges, bureaucrats, and labor protestors. But these observers have never been able to identify an actual pathway to political reform. In fact, Egypt’s political order has produced a system that seems impervious to change. The Egyptian regime of President Hosni Mubarak has proven adaptable to both internal and external pressures, not brittle and vulnerable to political challenges.
In the last six weeks, however, two new developments have emerged with the potential
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