Rural Patronage Systems and the Return of the Regime in Egypt [Muftah]

February 6, 2014

Kelby Olson

In her latest article for Reuters, Maggie Fick explains the resurgence of Mubarak-era patronage networks outside Cairo and how these networks have previously shaped voting patterns. Given Sisi’s unsurprising announcement to officially run for president, these networks are posed to mobilize pro-military support to shape the future political landscape of the country.  

In the West, politicians turn to sophisticated public relations companies during electoral campaigns. Here, they look to players like Saif, who sit in their offices listening to constituents and offer solutions by opening their wallets.

Analysts say the nature of Egyptian politics means that the influence of local notables over voting habits, especially in rural towns and villages, where most people live, is likely to remain widespread for years to come.

With many of Mursi’s followers in jail or driven underground, and liberal parties unable to challenge Sisi, there are few forces in a position to overhaul the system.

Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which was banned after the 2011 uprising, was never ideological, like the Communist parties in Eastern Europe. Instead the party was an efficient vehicle for distributing patronage.

Sisi, whose image hangs on posters across Shebin El Kom, may have to depend in the long-term on local politicians who can secure a level of consent from the population that cannot be achieved by force alone.

To keep his popularity intact, Sisi would have to work the strategic countryside, just like Mubarak did.

“Without the rural areas and the population outside the large cities, no government can hope to establish a political mass of support,” said H.A. Hellyer, an Egypt expert and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“If you only have Cairo, you can’t hope to hold on forever.”

Read the full article here.

Source: Muftah

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