Global security and geostrategy expert Jon B. Alterman discussed Egyptian policy in a lecture entitled “The Egyptian Revolutions and Defining the New Normals” at Sever Hall on Monday night.
The talk, hosted by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, was part of a lecture series focused on the ongoing transformations in the Arab world.
E. Roger Owen, Middle East history professor and Alterman’s former teacher, introduced him as the “best known and most respected pundit related to Egyptian events.” Alterman has taken four trips to Egypt since the beginning of the revolution and is now the director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington D.C.
Alterman compared the recent Egyptian uprisings to the revolution of 1952, noting similarities in the challenges each group faced to sustain power.
“They find it’s hard to do all the kinds of things in government that nobody talks about in opposition but ends up being the determinant of whether they are successful or unsuccessful,” Alterman said.
Alterman, who was in Egypt during the 2012 elections, pointed out that the country has shown signs of embracing the democratic process.
According to Alterman, though the military’s acquisition of power in 2011 could be described as a coup, their facilitation of democratic elections in 2012 is a promising signal for the future of democracy in Egypt.
“[There were] men making sure [all] the votes were sent straight to the counting office,” said Alterman, “They decided it was more important to preserve the army’s place in Egypt rather than their power.”
Alterman noted that economic progress in the country has been slower than expected with falling job rates and rising prices. However, he expressed hope in the power of the Egyptian people to reverse the worsening trend of the economy.
“The Egyptian public is the last institution that really can stand up against the president. [They are a] different Egyptian public than we’ve ever seen.” said Alterman.
Despite the state of the economy, Alterman does not believe that the Muslim Brotherhood will be easily defeated in the upcoming election.
“If you think the Obama campaign was organized and data-driven,...it pales in comparison to the Brotherhood’s,” Alterman said, “They are uniquely structured to mobilize voters and get them to the polls.”