Egypt in 2011. A Regime That No Longer Knows How to Adapt? Fluid Conjunctures and Regime Transformations in Perspective.

EUI Working Paper MWP 2012/03, Florence, European University Institute, 2012

The popular uprising that took place in Egypt in January and February 2011 may eventually lead to regime change. Whatever the end result of the ongoing process, however, the theories of authoritarian consolidation – which view the capacity of a political regime to adapt to a changing environment as key to its durability – provide an interesting framework to analyze the process of crisis of early 2011. The work conducted by Michel Camau on Tunisia’s authoritarian regime and its transformations in the 1980s, in particular, is worth being considered and put in perspective with the recent developments in Egypt. It underlines how factors of a different nature can combine and create a fluid conjuncture to which political actors – regime leaders included – may find it difficult to adapt.

The Egyptian context of January 2011 can be viewed as one of these critical moments of political fluidity in which transformation or rupture are at stake for the regime, depending on the capacity of its leadership to adapt. The prospect of the presidential succession is seen as a window of opportunity for changing the balance of power within the political system. The social effects of liberal economic policies and the growing political awareness of youth have led to major social transformations. Growing tensions within and between the main institutions of the regime have progressively undermined the ruling elite’s cohesion.

Because it takes place in such a critical conjuncture, the multisectorial mobilization of early 2011 contributes to the blurring of the leadership’s calculations and capacity to adapt. The regime undergoes a process of fracture and disintegration whose eventual result remains unclear.