There has been a growing consensus among political scientists that transitions rarely follow linear processes, and that any tautological approach to paths of change is likely to be misguiding. This paper argues that the same signals of a disconnect between universalist liberal democratic prescriptions for change and the situation on the ground are surfacing once again.
This paper speaks to the first thematic field in the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)’s Democratization, Decentralization and Local Governance Network (DLGN)/ Institute of Development Studies (IDS) collaboration, namely ‘how to improve the quality of citizen participation, accountability and representation in young democracies’.
Its starting point is that in order to improve the quality of citizen representation, one needs to better capture the pulse of the citizens on the ground. It argues that in the context of post-Mubarak Egypt, a universal liberal procedural approach that equates ballot box activity with democracy is highly reductionist. An engagement with a broader array of indicators would in fact suggest that ballot boxes and authoritarianism can thrive side by side.
The paper proposes that in order to avoid the kind of disconnects from citizen realities that characterised the political analysis of citizen agency during Mubarak’s era, it would be helpful to understand the spaces and forms through which unruly politics is thriving in Egypt today.