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Can Egypt Become a True Democracy?

WASHINGTON, DC – Hosni Mubarak’s resignation as President of Egypt marks the beginning of an important stage in that country’s transition to a new political system. But will the political transition ultimately lead to democracy?

We cannot know with certainty, but, based on the history of democratic government, and the experiences of other countries – the subject of my book, Democracy’s Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World’s Most Popular Form of Government – we can identify the obstacles that Egypt faces, as well as the advantages it enjoys, in building political democracy.

Understanding any country’s democratic prospects must begin with a definition of democracy, which is a hybrid form of government, a fusion of two different political traditions. The first is popular sovereignty, the rule of the people, which is exercised through elections. The second, older and equally important, is liberty – that is, freedom.

Freedom comes in three varieties: political liberty, which takes the form of individual rights to free speech and association; religious liberty, which implies freedom of worship for all faiths; and economic liberty, which is embodied in the right to own property.