Egypts Prospects Of Democracy Consolidation History Essay

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Following the popular uprising of early 2011 against the long-standing regime of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian military assumed control of the country. Although, since then, the generals have transferred de jure political power to a democratically elected President, the transition is not yet over. The political strategies of the previous regimes have created a large, economically and politically strong army, which still holds de facto political power. The democratically elected government is prevented from reforming the army by the threat of a military takeover. The dynamic between the army and civilians is presented using Acemoglu, Ticchi and Vindigni's (2010) Theory of Military Dictatorships. As the army has currently the biggest influence of this dynamic, the paper focuses on understanding what determines the preferences of the military over the future of Egypt. The main argument of this paper is that although the army perceives itself as a 'guardian' of the Egyptian state, its size and strength relative to other political forces make it in fact the biggest obstacle to democracy consolidation in Egypt.

Table of Contents

List of Figures


In the wake of the Arab Spring Egyptians took to the streets demanding the ousting of President Mubarak's regime. Paradoxically, the military leaders, who can be seen as being part of Mubarak's regime, took over and led the transition of power to a democratically elected government. In June 2012, when the military transferred power to a democratically elected President, it may have seemed that Egypt has become a democracy. However, as I argue, the transitional period has not ended. The civil-military relations in Egypt are yet to be determined. Given the cultural similarities, they may take the form of the Pakistani model, where the military holds a vast economic empire and decides on the rules of the political scene or the Turkish model where the Islamist gradually managed to reduce the power of the military, which saw itself as the 'guardian' of the secularity of the Turkey (Springborg, 2013)

The Egyptian army, due to the consequent strategies of the Egyptian leaders, has grown into one of the biggest social, political and economic players in Egypt. Additionally, due to selective conscription, it has become an entity which increasingly does not reflect the preferences of the majority of Egyptians and secludes itself from the rest of the society. As currently the army itself has the biggest influence on the civil- military relationship, this paper will focus on what determines the preferences of the military over the future of Egypt. I argue that whether the military will secure its political, economic and social strength in the paternalistic approach of being a 'guardian' of the Egyptian state, will determine Egypt's prospects of democracy consolidation.

The paper is structured as follows; Firstly, I outline Acemoglu, Ticchi and Vindigni's (2010) Theory of Military Dictatorship, as it will later enable me to apply a formal analytical framework to the case of Egypt. Secondly, I analyse the characteristics of the Egyptian military and focus on how these affect the military's preferences over the future of the Egyptian state. Thirdly, I apply Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) theory to the context of transitional Egypt. I analyse what factors affect the preferences of civilians, and more importantly of the military, over democracy versus a military dictatorship. Finally, I provide concluding remarks.

The Military in Egypt

Due to its economic, political and social strength, relative to other groups, the military will be one of the main determinants of the future of Egypt. According to Springborg (2013) the capacities, intents and degrees of cooperation of civilian political actors are clearly secondary in today's Egypt. The preferences of the military over what form the state of Egypt should take post Mubarak is determined by a number of factors including the background of the generals, the structure of the army, the international context as well as the current role of the military in Egypt's political, economic and social life.

The Political Aspect

Since 1952, when the military carried out a coup d'état, all of Egypt's rulers have come from the military and have been de facto selected by the military (Lutterbeck, 2012). Under Mubarak's rule the senior officers were included into his political crony patronage system. Upon retirement they were offered the opportunity to gain additional income through managerial positions in military enterprises and state-owned companies, as well as governmental posts and consulting services. Ex-militaries (who retire at the age of 50) and internal security personnel have used a provision in law which guarantees half of the seats in parliament to 'famers' and 'workers' to maintain the military's control over the parliament (Martini and Taylor, 2011). The large presence of retired military in such positions is what Sayigh (2012) calls the 'officers republic'. He outlines three reasons why Mubarak chose the strategy of incorporation of the officers into his crony system. Firstly, it was a way of giving the military concessions in order to prevent it from assuming power. To further prevent a coup, Mubarak enlarged the security services in order to counterbalance the strength of the army. Secondly, the conflict with Islamist which was strengthened after Mubarak's assassination attempt in Ethiopia in 1995, made Mubarak see creating a loyal army as a way of preventing Islamists from gaining power in Egypt. This is reflected in the fact that affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood were banned from entering the army. Finally, Mubarak saw giving political and economic benefits to the army as a way of compensating the officers for the negative effects of the privatisation programme which was introduced as a result of external debt write-offs in the early 1990s.

The Economic Aspect

The military has not only had control over the politics of Egypt but also, as a result, is an important economic actor in the country. According to Tadros (2012) the military has created an 'economic empire'- according to estimates by Fahmy (2012), the military controls between 15 and 40% of the Egyptian economy. It owns factories producing a wide range of goods unrelated to defence sold to the civilians as well as a number of services such as construction and tourism. The army uses some of the conscripts as cheap labour in such military-run factories (Kirkpatrick, 2011). Furthermore, the military owns vast amounts of real estate across the country, however the exact amount is not known (Hennion, 2011). Tadros (2012) states that the officers are 'huge' landowners and speculate on the value of land. They are involved in infrastructure projects across the country such as the development of 'New Cairo'- a housing and leisure project in the east of the capital. The army in Egypt pays no taxes on its commercial activities, gets subsidies and is able to buy public land on favourable terms (Kirkpatrick, 2012). The exact level of involvement of the Egyptian military in the economy is unknown as the army's finances are unaudited. There is no transparency of the army's level of spending, revenues or land ownership. Moreover, the military's budget is a separate total amount in Egypt's budget, with no civilian oversight. Transparency International publishes the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index, which measures corruption in the military and level of transparency and accountability in the army. It puts Egypt in the lowest band- 'Critical Risk', among countries such as Syria, Yemen and Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Springborg (2013) the Index is in effect a surrogate measure of the civilian oversight of the army, which reinforces the point that there is no control over the Egyptian army.

The Social and Cultural Aspect

With half a million conscripts the Egyptian army is one of the biggest in the Middle East. Combined with up to 1.7 million employees of the Ministry of Interior (police, anti-riot forces ad security-intelligence) the number of armed forces exceeds 2 million. Springborg (2013) estimates that, including dependants of those 2 million people, the number of Egyptians reliant on the armed forces is around 8 million which is equivalent to about a tenth of Egypt's population. If the civilians that are dependent on the economic activity of the military are taken into account, the number will further increase. This creates a political force larger than any other in the country. Military service is compulsory for all males between 18 and 30. However, although universal conscription is embedded in law and the 2012 constitution, it has ended in practice (Springborg, 2013). Any affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood are barred from entering the army. According to Aclimandos, quoted in Hennion (2011), 'the Brotherhood knows that that's a red line'. Candidates whose parents do not both hold university degrees are not allowed to enter military colleges (Sayigh, 2012). According to Janowitz (cited in Lutterbeck, 2012) 'the most common mechanism through which countries ensure a mirroring of society's values and expectations within the military establishment, is the one of general conscription'. The lack of universal conscription working in practice in Egypt, combined with entry requirements excluding certain social groups and classes, creates the Egyptian army into a large and powerful group not necessarily reflecting the preferences of the median voter in Egypt. In addition, the military largely secludes itself from the Egyptian society. Officers and their families live in purpose-built military housing, shop in military supermarkets and socialise in military-run social clubs (Sayigh, 2012).

The military in Egypt legitimises its leading social role in Egypt through the 'constructed narrative about the army as the foundation of the modern nation-state' (Said, 2012). There is a myth maintained of a 'noble coup' undertaken by the military in order to protect the nation (Abul-Magd, 2012). The myth was strengthened by the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy and the 2011 ouster of Mubarak. As a result, the army has been the most respected institution in Egypt. According to a 2011 survey 88% of the Egyptians state that the military has a very good or somewhat good influence on the country, which is the highest result out of all social groups in Egypt (Pew Research Centre, 2011). The army perceives itself as a 'guardian' of the Egyptian state. This perception has made the Egyptian army develop a paternalistic approach to the Egyptian society. According to Sayigh (2012) the Security Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that leads the army, believes that it 'necessarily "knows best" when it comes to Egypt's interests and needs', and is convinced that 'civilian politicians and bureaucrats are less competent, honest, and patriotic, or at the very least need paternal guidance'. The paternalistic approach is reflected by the SCAF's claim that it devoted $2.33 billion from its own resources to the Egyptian state in the year up to March 2012, and by the fact that building roads, housing and amenities in poor urban areas is presented as 'gifts to the people of Egypt' (Sayigh, 2012).

Acemoglu, Ticchi and Vindigni's (2010) Theory of Military Dictatorships applied to the case of Egypt.

The Assumptions and Background of the Game in Egypt

Acemoglu, Ticchi and Vindigni (2010) attempt to answer the question of what determines the actions of the military, assuming it is a self-interest body. In Egypt, this assumption holds as the military, represented by SCAF has political and economic interests independent from the ruling regime and the citizens. The economic character of the approach implies that individuals have well defined preferences over the various states of the society based on their economic consequences. Furthermore, the authors assume that ideological preferences over the various regimes are not an overriding factor. This is to some extent consistent with the empirical observations from Egypt that the mass uprisings were primarily based on economic grounds such as high inflation on food products, rising unemployment and lack of economic dividends from the growth that occurred in the preceding decade (Hakimian, 2011). Additionally 82% of Egyptians say that improvement of the economic conditions is very important in Egypt's future, making it the top response (Pew Reseach Centre, 2011). I assume that the median voter in Egypt is a citizen. This assumption holds particularly as the military in Egypt have traditionally refrained from voting.

In democracy, the majority of the population is allowed to vote and express their preferences about policies, and the government is supposed to represent the preferences of the whole population, whereas an autocracy represents only the interests of a narrow group in the society (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2006). Within autocratic regimes, the authors make a distinction between an oligarchic regime, ruled by economic elites, and military dictatorships. Under the oligarchic regime the elites use the military (including the secret service) to repress the citizens to prevent a transition to democracy. On one hand, creating a powerful military makes preventing democratisation more effective; however on the other hand, it raises the threat of a military coup. In the oligarchic regime the elites can choose three strategies. Firstly, they can choose to not use repression, and therefore not build a powerful military, thus allowing for a transition to democracy. Secondly, they may choose to prevent democratisation by using repression and simultaneously pay the military, which carry out the repressions, an 'efficiency wage' in order to prevent a military coup. As in will later show, a military regime is unstable therefore it is more profitable for the military to get an efficiency wage from an autocratic or democratic regime, rather than rule itself. Thirdly, the elites might choose to use repression without making concessions to the soldiers in the form of an 'efficiency wage', thus risking a military takeover.

The autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak, in order to prevent democratisation used the military and in particular the secret police and the police force to repress the Egyptian citizens. Since the coup of 1952 a large army has been created and well as an even larger security force to counterbalance it. Mubarak and his predecessors chose the strategy of building a strong army in order to secure their power and paid the military an efficiency wage to prevent a military takeover. The efficiency wage included not only a wage for the soldiers but it also took the form of numerous benefits including tax breaks, employment at government positions for the military and early retirement among others. Moreover, the accepted lack of transparency and civilian accountability can be seen as not a government failure but as a form of benefits for the army. As a result of Mubarak's strategy, the strength of the Egyptian army is ranked 14th out of 68 countries measured by the Global Firepower (2013). As in Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) model this will influence the prospects of democracy consolidation in today's Egypt.

In early 2011 when Egyptians took to the streets to protest against the economic and political hardship they were occurring, Mubarak's regime was threatened with a revolution. Although it did try to propose reforms which would be pro-majority orientated, the commitment issue existed. The protesters did not find the commitment to pro-majority policies credible within the existing political framework, as Mubarak might have not introduced them once the protests were over and the citizens lost their temporary de facto political power. The citizens demanded a change in political institutions and Mubarak's regime to resign. Finally, as the military refused to enforce the curfew and stood neutral, repressions to prevent democratisation failed with the probability 1. Mubarak's regime was forced to resign. According to Acemoglu and Robinson's (2006) model of democratisation the threat of a revolution with sufficiently high repression costs would lead to the franchise being extended to the majority of the population. However, in Egypt the military represented by SCAF assumed the de jure political power. In public statements SCAF's main narrative was that the transitional period under its rule was based on the fact that the army was the guardian of the people and the protector of the revolution (Said, 2012). Moreover, Said claims that the army sacrificed their leader in order to retain privileges and argues that 'the military leaders of Egypt have accepted the transition, perhaps unwillingly, and have only been willing to establish a conditional form of democracy if it is one which maintains the rule, privileges and, above all, the economic interests of the army.' Toronto (2011) calls the assuming of the power by SCAF following mass protests a 'coup-volution' and argues that it 'was a soft, relatively peaceful coup, but it did nothing to alter the privileged economic position that the senior military leadership in Egypt enjoys'. Abul-Magd (2012) notes that the assuming of the power by the military and retaining it for seventeen months rather than the previously announced six, had all the main characteristics of a successful coup- control over the media, the bureaucracy, security apparatus and the legal system. She further argues that the Egyptian coup fits a global pattern, as from the 1990s putschists have increasingly 'adorned their coups with the trappings of democracy'. Some scholars argue that the coup and the military control over the transition will improve prospects of Egypt's democratisation. This view will be examined in more detail in chapter four.

The military had found itself as a protector of the secularity of Egypt. A high ranking official quoted by El-Senawy (in Said,2012) said that 'a military coup today is a suicidal action for the Egyptian military. But this suicidal though is not totally unthinkable. We are ready to do this o prevent Egypt from becoming a religious state.' The military devised constitutional laws to protect its privileged economic and political position. Article 197 in the new constitution keeps the military budget free from civil oversight. Trials of civilians in military courts have also been enabled by the constitution. Additionally, the Decree of Law No.45/2011 gave corrupt retired generals immunity from prosecution. This process is what Varol (2012) characterised as a 'democratic coup', in which the military helps overthrow an oligarchic regime, leads the transition while simultaneously ensuring its policy preferences are reflected in the new constitution, which enables it to have a role in domestic politics following the transition to a civilian government.

When, under pressures from the protesters and the international community, particularly the United States of America, which gives Egypt $1.3bln in military aid annually, The SCAF eventually handed over the de jure political power to the elected President Mohammed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in June 2012, Egypt reached the stage of transitional democracy as defined by Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) Theory of Military Dictatorships.

The Game in Transitional Democracy

Acemoglu, et. al's (2010) paper characterises the economy as a game between the economic elites, citizens and the military. There are two state variables in this game. The first is the size of the military from the previous period xt-1 ∈ {0, }. For simplification the authors assume that the size of the military takes the value 0 if it was only needed for national defence and if it was needed for repressions. The second state variable is the type of the political regime, denoted by st. It can take the form of an oligarchy (E), democracy (D) or military dictatorship (M). At any given time t, the ruling government in Egypt decides on a policy vector consisting of a chosen tax rate on the income of the producers τt, level of public good provision Gt and the wage of the soldiers wt . It also decides on whether to build a strong military at time t by at=1 or whether to reform and downsize the already existing army by at=0. In the case of Egypt and important policy choice will be the level of secularity of the country, as the army sees itself as a 'guardian' of the secular state. By setting those policy choices the civilians will try to make concessions to the army to avoid a coup. However, the government cannot make a credible commitment to these concessions in the long-run, as the military knows that a large army is not needed in democratic Egypt where no repressions are needed to prevent democratisation. At this stage the strong military has the de facto political power in the transitional state due to its strength relative to other social groups. Its strength arises from its large economic empire which is said to control up to 40% of the Egyptian economy and a large social base reliant on the armed forces. The army might want to transfer its de facto political power into de jure power by mounting a coup.

The army assesses its economic value in democracy and under military rule and its ideological preference over the two states (assuming ideological preferences are not the overriding factor). If the army, by assessing these values and taking into account the probability and cost of a coup, decides to try to overthrow the elected government led by the civilians, nature will determine whether it will succeed with a probability γ or fail with a probability 1-γ. If the coup succeeds, Egypt will move into a military dictatorship. If the coup fails the country will transform into a consolidated democracy as the army will have lost its strength

Additionally, the authors acknowledge the fact that individuals should be able to decide whether to join the army and the soldiers should have a decision whether to leave the army. However they assume that the value to the citizen in the military should be higher than the value to citizen as a producer outside of the army. This ensures that it will never be a best response for soldiers to leave the military. For simplification I follow this assumption. It may be consistent with the situation in Egypt, where although there is a low wage for soldiers, this is compensated by retirement benefits, tax breaks, promotions to senior military levels and post-retirement opportunities

If the country is ruled by an oligarchic regime and it chooses to not have an army, there will be a smooth transition to democracy, as there will be no agent to carry out the repressions or threaten to mount a coup. However, if the oligarchic regime choses to have a strong military in order to repress democratisation and the repressions succeed the country will remain under the control of an oligarchic regime; If the military attempts a coup the country will become a military dictatorship if the coup succeeds, or will move to democracy if the coup fails (the authors assume that the citizens will use a failed coup as an opportunity to force democratisation as there will be no repressions). In the following subsection I will discuss the stability of military regimes following a successful coup.

Alternatively, if in an oligarchic regime, the repressions fail (or the military choose not to repress) and the military does not attempt a coup, the country will move into a state of 'transitional democracy' (TD). This period is a state in which the citizens have gained de jure political power, however the military, due to their relative strength at that moment, poses transitional de facto political power and may use it to mount a coup against the new democratic regime. The period of transitional democracy corresponds to the situation in Egypt as the elected government has de jure political power; however the Egyptian military has de facto political power due to its economic and political strength relative to other social groups. The elected regime is assumed to be unable to prevent a coup by reforming and reducing the size of the military in this period, however it will be able to do so in the future. I do not follow Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) assumption that the government will be able to reform the military in the stage following the stage in which the military choses whether to mount a coup or not. In the case of Egypt the army is so politically, economically and socially strong that any attempt to reform it would be met with great resistance (Abdelhadi, 2012). It might therefore continue to have a substantial degree of de facto political power in the following stages. Although this might strengthen the credibility of the newly elected Islamist government to not reform the army, the regime will still not be able to make a fully credible commitment giving the army an incentive to pose a coup threat in the future. Not following the assumption of being able to reform the military in t=t+1 makes the stages of the game repeat until the army loses its relative power and is reformed by the civilians.

The transitional character of the state of transitional democracy arises from the fact that it is not durable- Egypt will move to a consolidated democracy as the military will lose its temporary de facto political power by either being reformed or by undertaking an unsuccessful coup. Alternatively, if the military's coup succeeds Egypt will move to the state of a military regime.

Egypt Starting From Transitional Democracy. Adopted from Acemoglu et al. (2010)

Factors Affecting Egypt's Prospects for Democracy Consolidation

Inequality and Budget Constraints

As it is assumed that the only use of the army in the previous state of Mubarak's oligarchic regime was for repressions (the effect of relaxing this assumption will be later analysed), the democratic regime will want to reduce the size of the army, finding no use for it. This is where the commitment problem arises - the democracy cannot commit to not reforming the military and therefore the military finds an incentive to mount a coup which will enable it to change the regime and secure their de facto political power by transforming it into de jure political power. In order to prevent the military from attempting a coup, the new democratic regime can make concessions to the army. The concessions can take the form of soldiers' wages and military spending or the preservation of the military's economic and political benefits. The greater the concessions, the less likely a coup will be. Acemoglu et al (2010) define a minimum wage wTD that the democratic regime must pay the military in order to prevent it from undertaking a coup. The minimum wage will depend on , the probability of the coup succeeding and, as, if the coup fails the military will be reformed and the soldiers will be forced to quit the army becoming citizens, the difference between the soldier's potential wage under a military regime and the wage of a citizen. This implies that coups are more likely in more unequal societies, where this difference is larger. Houle (2009) finds emipircal evidence for this result. By analysing a dataset containing 2400 country-years between 1950 and 2001 he finds that inequality promotes coups- while the probability of a breakdown of democracy is 7.59% for country with a labour share of 0.25 of GDP it goes down to 0 for a labour share of 0.48. Egypt's inequality is relatively low, its labour share is around 0.40 of GDP (Guerriero, 2012). Additionally, the majority of the soldiers' wage is relatively low ranging between $8 and $16 a month (Peskin, 2012), while the average household income in Egypt in around $300 a month according to the Egypt Independent (2012). The low wage is however compensated by numerous benefits and post-retirement employment prospects. Additionally, the earnings of the senior officers are not known due to the lack of transparency and oversight of the military's finances. This makes it difficult to determine the average wage of the soldiers and thus the inequality between the wages of soldiers and low-skilled citizens.

The majority of the Egyptians must also find it feasible and desirable to give the army concessions given Egypt's budget constraint. If the probability of the coup being successful is lower than a certain threshold value γ*, that condition will be satisfied, as a coup highly probable of succeeding will be more expensive to prevent. In a time of economic crisis, which Egypt has found itself in, the budget revenues will be lower, thus lowering γ*. Additionally, President Morsi will have an incentive to give the military concessions as otherwise he may sacrifice his future political power. If Morsi chose to demilitarise the Egyptian economy and political sphere, the army might use its relative political power to make him lose the next elections. This trade-off between current policy objectives and future political power is what Bai and Lagunoff (2008) call the 'Faustian dynamics'.

Military's Role in National Defence

The extension of Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) model implies that the credibility of the government's commitment to future policies will have an impact on the equilibrium. The credibility of the civilians commitment to not reform the military will be strengthened if the Egyptian army will perceive that it will have an important role in the Egyptian society in the future. This can be achieved if the army is important for national defence. The Egyptian army has not been in combat since the 1973 war with Israel. However, the strategic partnership with the US military aimed to sustain peace in the Middle East may be seen by the Egyptian army as its key role in national defence. On the other hand, according to Said (2012) the Egyptian military 'often uses the claim of 'national security' because of its shared border with Israel in order to justify coercive, secretive, and corporatist policies'.

Ideological Preferences and Structure of the Army

Although in our economic approach we assumed that the ideological preferences of the military towards democracy and military dictatorship does not overtake economic preferences, they still might play a certain role in determining the military's response whether or not to undertake a coup. The previous chapter has shown that due to the lack of universal conscription working in practice and the selective intake of recruits, the preferences of the military may not necessarily reflect the preferences of the median voter in Egypt. The ideological preferences of the military and SCAF in particular, are difficult to assess, due to the lack of information on the council. As we have seen in the previous chapter, many of the senior military leaders have been educated in the Soviet Union and have opposed economic liberalisation in the 1990s (Khalaf et al. 2011). However, on the other hand, since the 1980s the generals have been trained in the US. They travel to the US and other Western democracies regularly to meet their military counterparts. However, as Dickey (2012) notes Tantawi, the leader of the SCAF during the Egyptian transition, and his cronies 'remained deeply suspicious of underlings who got too close to the Americans'. In a 2008 cable released by Wikileaks the US ambassador to Cairo states that the Field Marshal and Mubarak 'are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time. They simply do not have the energy, inclination or world view to do anything differently'. The preferences of Tantawi over whether the military should rule Egypt might have been influenced by the fact that for several years he served as a military attaché to Pakistan, a country troubled by coups and military interventions into politics. A 2009 diplomatic cable states: 'Tantawi added that any country where the military became engaged in 'internal affairs' was 'doomed to have lots of problems.' He stressed that countries must clearly stipulate the military's duties in their constitution and militaries should not deviate from those defined responsibilities' (Wikileaks, 2009). The number two general on the SCAF - Lieutenant General Sami Anan during the transition period post-February 2011 became Washington's favourite general on the council (Borger and Ball, 2011). Moreover, the general is said to have a have a fondness for American consumer goods (Bumiller, 2011). Due to the seclusion of the Egyptian army from the rest of the society the backgrounds of the other leaders of SCAF are not precisely known. In a personal communication, an Egyptian journalist, Mostafa El-Hoshy, states that the most striking and intriguing feature of the generals is that 'they do not show off their wealth at all, they all live in normal houses as far as I know and one of my family members is on SCAF and I can assure you that he lives a pretty normal life in a normal house with a normal car' (2013). El-Hoshy notes that is unknown whether they have 'hidden wealth'. By contrast, the younger generation of the Egyptian officers is fully American trained. According to a diplomat quoted by Galey (2012), following the 2011 uprising, officers come back from training in the US and 'can't figure out why the military and the country is still ruled by the military people'. Closer personal ties with democratic regimes of the younger officers may reduce the preference of the military in Egypt to form a non-democratic system in the long run.

The structure of the army will also influence its reaction to reforms undertaken by the civilians. According to Lutterbeck (2012) high levels of military institutionalisation, in the form of the army being rule-bound and based on meritocratic principles, determines the army's openness to pro-reform movements. The author assesses Egypt's military to present medium levels of institutionalisation, which has influenced its hesitance to the mass protest that overthrew Mubarak's regime.

Stability of a Consequent Military Regime

When assessing their preferences over the different outcomes of the game, the army might take into account the fact that military dictatorships are generally unstable (Przeworski, 1996). Wintrobe, (1990) finds that this arises from the fact that although a military regime has a comparative advantage at repression it has a comparative disadvantage at accumulating political loyalty. If the military regime tries to build its political support by raising wages of the army it will raise the cost of repression and effectively destroy its comparative advantage in repression. Goemans and Marinov (2012) find that two thirds of the countries in which a coup was mounted in the post-Cold War period held democratic elections within five years following the coup. On the other hand, military regimes are unstable due to the risk of a counter coup. According to Kennedy (1974), coups are twice as likely in a military as in a civilian regime, and the vast majority involve the overthrow of one military government and its replacement by another. Therefore once the army satisfies its primary aim to raise military benefits, the rational action to take is to hand over to a civilian government, having assured immunity from prosecution and future budget cuts (Wintrobe, 1990). This situation is reflected in the way the Egyptian army handed power over to Morsi, after having secured immunity for itself. The Egyptian military might also consider the fact that it would suffer reputational loses if it were to rule Egypt. This was evident during the transitional period when the popularity of SCAF was threatened. According to Springborg (2013) the Egyptian army may 'seek shelter' behind a political force and try to control Egypt without being effectively in power.

The Cost of Undertaking a Coup and the Probability of the Coup Succeeding

The cost of undertaking a coup decreases and the probability of it succeeding increases in times of political economic crisis as the collective-action problem is easier to solve (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2006). This gives a stronger incentive for the military to undertake a coup. According to Przeworski (2000, p.109-110) 'most deaths of democracy are accompanied by some economic crisis.' Furthermore, Londregan and Poole (1990) state that economic backwardness is close to being a necessary condition for coups. Today's Egypt faces a severe economic crisis. GDP growth has fallen from 5.1% in 2010 to 2% in 2012 (CIA World Factbook, 2012). Moreover, Egypt suffers from a huge budget gap, rising unemployment and a quarter of the population living under the poverty line (New York Times, 2012). These conditions increase the probability of a successful coup.

A strong civil society can have the opposite effect - decreasing the probability of a coup succeeding γ. According to Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) a well organised civil society is necessary to protect democracy. Teorell (2010), examining the causes of democracy consolidation in a country dataset between 1972 and 2006, found that access to media outlets defers backsliding from achieved levels of democracy. In Egypt social media helped resolve the collective action problem during the protests against Mubarak's regime. Today, social as well as traditional media's role as a safeguard of democracy may help increase transparency of the military making a coup more costly to undertake.

Many scholars argue that globalisation increases the probability of democracy consolidation. According to Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) increased international trade means that disruption of economic activity caused by a coup is more costly. Moreover increasing political integration might mean that the military might expect stronger sanctions and reactions from the democratic world if it undertakes a coup. In Egypt the military is particularly pressured to not carrying out a coup by the perspective of losing US military aid.

The Military as a 'Guardian' of Democracy

The result from the Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) model shows that a strong military created by the previous oligarchic regime in order to repress democratisation will impede the country's transition to consolidated democracy. This is consistent with findings of other scholars. Haggard and Kaufman (1995), by examining the wave of democratisation in the two decades leading up to the 1990s, find that the continuity in the political power claimed by the military following a democratic transition jeopardises democratic consolidation. Linz and Stepan (1996) argue that the military's imposition of a 'reserve domain' on elected governments impedes democratisation.

Varol (2012) argues however, that a certain type of military can play a democracy promoting role in the first stages of a country's transition to democracy. Additionally, by basing his findings on field work in Turkey and Egypt, he argues that some coups can be 'democratic coups' as they lead to democratisation in the long run. The author acknowledges the fact that his theory is a second- best outcome. The optimal option would be for the civilians to lead the process of transition. However, he argues that conventional thinking about the role of the military in democratic transitions have not taken into account the fact that in many cases following a period of long autocratic rule, transitional democracies are fragile and likely to breakdown. Varol (2012) argues that not all militaries are of a praetorian type, which is politically powerful and intervenes in domestic politics. Military that is interdependent, is usually composed of citizen soldiers, responds to international democratic norms, and focuses on external, not internal, threats. Although, as in Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) model, it is a self-interested actor, Varol's paper (2012) argues that its institutional interests often align with the conditions leading to the emergence of democracy― encouragement of domestic stability, political plurality, and national unity. Additionally, in transitional democracies where strong political parties are yet to form, the military might act as a second-best constraint on the authoritarian tendencies of newly elected leaders.

Varol (2012) applies his theory to the cases of Turkey and Portugal. The Turkish Armed Forces undertook a coup in 1960. According to the author 'the coup established the legal and political foundation to a participatory democratic society and a pluralist social-political order that represented major social groups'. Additionally, the military gave over power to the civilians on schedule. However, as the author notes, the military eventually impeded democratisation due to strong political dominance, due to which a civilian government was unable to form. The military since then had seen it as a protector of the secularity of Turkey. Only in the past decade, due to Turkey's accession process, legal reforms reduced the political power of the army. Similarly, the army in Portugal was involved in establishing institutional support for a democratic system, following the 1974 coup against 'Estado Novo', the longest surviving right-wing dictatorship in Europe. However, unlike the Turkish army, the Portuguese military ensured a prompt transition to a civilian rule and did not interfere in domestic politics.

In this theoretical framework, the Egyptian military poses characteristics of both a praetorian and interdependent army. On one hand, the lowest-ranks of the army consist of citizen-candidates, representing a cross section of the Egyptian society. However, on the other hand, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, have traditionally been banned from entering the army. The army is the most respected social group in Egypt and according to Varol (2012) has, to some extent, promoted stability and pluralism in Egypt's transition. The army is focused on internal threats in the form of radical Islamists as well as external aspects in the form of the relationship with the US and Israel. This reinforces my previous argument that the Egyptian military will determine whether Egypt will form a consolidated pluralist democracy, like Portugal, or a less stable democracy with political conflicts between the military and civilians, like Turkey.


Hosni Mubarak's strategy of creating a big army and security force in order to prevent democratisation and the Islamists from gaining power has created a large social force reliant on the armed forces. In order to prevent the military from using its power to mount a coup, Mubarak was forced to pay the military what is called 'an efficiency wage' in Acemoglu et al.'s (2010) model. Loyalty was rewarded with concessions. They have taken the form of high military spending, fuelled by US military aid, tax breaks and benefits such as secured posts in public companies and administration for retired generals. As a result, the army has grown over the years into one of the main economic powers in Egypt. The officers have control over military enterprises producing consumer goods, state-owned companies as well as government posts.

In 2011 the military ceased to support the aging leader after seventeen days of mass protests and assumed power through the Security Council of Armed Forces. This was seen by many commentators as effectively a peaceful coup. During the transitional period SCAF controlled the drafting of a new constitution and aimed to ensure that the privileges of the military were preserved. However, due to the potential reputational losses as well as pressures from Egyptian protesters and the international community, the military did not retain power and organised free elections. As the power was transferred to the elected President the state of transitional democracy begun, in which the military holds de facto political power in the country. The civilians set a level of concessions to the military, however as the army in Egypt is so politically, economically and socially powerful, its response to these actions will effectively determine the outcome of the game.

The strength of military's preference to not undertake a coup and allow the Egyptian democracy to consolidate will depend on whether the level of political and economic concession that the army receives will be retained. The concessions will consist of economic factors such as high military spending, lack of transparency and civilian oversight of the army's budget and the availability of well-paid positions for retired officers. Additionally, they will also consist of political privileges such as lack of prosecution of corrupt officers and the secularity of state. The response of the military will also depend of how strong the civilian government can commit to these concessions and to not demilitarising the Egyptian economy and political sphere in the future. The strength of the commitment will in turn depend on the military's perceived role in national defence enhanced by its strategic alliance with the US. Whether Egyptians will choose to maintain such concession will depend on their budget constraint, lowered by the current economic crisis.

As demilitarisation of the Egyptian political and economic life is absent from the rhetoric of the current government, the prospects of the military losing de facto political power are bleak. The situation of dual political power spread between the government and the military obstructs the consolidation of democracy in Egypt and has negative economic consequences. However, the millions of Egyptians that took to the streets await the economic and political dividends of the new system, ensuring that the status quo will not prevail.