What’s going on in Egypt?
Two and a half years ago millions of protesters took to the streets of Cairo, Egypt, demanding change. Although there was no formal, legal mechanism to effect that change, they still got it: President Hosni Mubarak’s government fell, and the President was taken into custody.
A year ago President Mohammed Morsi was elected, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood party. Over time, he appears to have enacted policies that favor his political party, and eventually the populace lost patience with the process. Demonstrations broke out across the country—one estimate was that up to 17 million Egyptians took to the streets last weekend. Certainly the pictures of the demonstrations have been stunning.
Now the military has stepped in, informing the government that they need to address the crisis or face suspension of the Constitution and martial law.
This is how democracies are born. It’s a messy process of trial-and-error, where people often disagree. A country of 85 million that has been ruled by an autocrat for decades can’t just slide into self-governance. Institutions and customs need to be established that support majority rule, minority rights, and the rule of law. Success isn’t guaranteed.
In the end, the emergence of millions onto the world stage is a good thing. 150 years ago today American soldiers fought and died to keep democracy alive. Let’s hope Egypt’s “new birth of freedom” isn’t so bloody.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer