It is fashionable to claim that support for democracy in Egypt is a fool’s errand, given the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood and the weakness of the opposition. Both claims deserve skeptical analysis.
The newest polls tells us that President Mohamed Morsi’s popularity continues to decline. Today 47 percent of Egyptians say they are dissatisfied with his performance while 46 percent approve of it. Only 30 percent would today vote for him for president.
Meanwhile, Tom Carothers of Carnegie has written a persuasive essay reminding us to take a second look at the “dismal opposition.” As Carothers wrote,
Overly harsh views of the Egyptian opposition—combined with a lack of recognition that many once-weak opposition actors in countries emerging from authoritarian rule have gone on to win elections—fuel the unhelpful idea that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only political force likely to hold power in Egypt for the foreseeable future. And that idea in turn encourages the problematic belief evident in U.S. policy in the past year that no alternative to the Brotherhood is likely to be viable for many years and the resultant tendency to downplay the Brotherhood’s significant political flaws.
Carothers rightly says we should not be supporting the opposition, but we should be supporting democracy and human rights in Egypt far more actively than we have been. Permanent Muslim Brotherhood control of Egypt and a steady decline in respect for civil liberties are not inevitable, but we help make them so if we abandon our role in supporting the principles of liberal democracy.