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Kwasi Kwarteng MP: No-one we spoke to foresaw the rise of the Salafists. But we are optimistic about the future of democracy in Egypt.

Kwasi Kwarteng is the MP for Spelthorne

Kwasi KwartengIn March last year the Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC) took a delegation to Egypt in the direct aftermath of the events of 25th January.

Given the significance of what was happening, we decided to take a couple of further delegations in the ensuing months.  We also thought it was a good idea to keep a record of what was going on.

The product of our efforts is Egypt 2011: Revolution and Transition. It is really a short record of what a small group of foreign politicians made of the great events which swept Egypt during 2011.

It will be a year to remember in the Arab world. Over time, naturally, people will see trends which now seem obscure. Our job in the pamphlet was to record, as sincerely as we could, our thoughts as events unfolded. We were lucky enough to be able to return to Egypt on two subsequent occasions and engage with many people in the political scene there.

Our conclusions are confined to the internal situation within Egypt itself. Early in the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood was identified as the best organised political force in the country. The Army was also in a very strong position. They were the ones who had, after all, consigned Mubarak to oblivion by withdrawing their support. The dynamic between the Army and the Muslim Brotherhood was always going to be the key political factor within Egypt.

There were some surprises, however. None of the people we spoke to predicted the rise of the Salafists, a more extreme Islamist group than the Muslim Brotherhood, in the parliamentary elections. We were also surprised at how trusting people were about the Army’s intentions.

It was a widely held view that the Army had no real political ambitions. People thought that they would happily give all their power back to a civilian authority. Some of us were always sceptical about the ease with which this could be done.

We are optimistic about the future of democracy in Egypt. We are only concerned to give as realistic a view as possible about the future development of that democracy.


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