The Failures of the Facebook Generation in the Arab Spring
In the upcoming Egyptian elections the country is choosing between Islamists and old Mubarak supporters. Francis Fukuyama on how the Facebook revolution of the Arab Spring has failed to deliver lasting political change. Join Fukuyama for a live chat on this Tuesday, May 22 at 11:30 AM EDT.
It is hard to know whom to root for in Wednesday’s presidential election in Egypt. Two of the leading candidates, Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq, were officials in the former Mubarak regime and are suspected of having ties to the military. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh is a self-proclaimed liberal Islamist who was expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood, but who is for some reason being endorsed by the ultra-conservative Salafis. Lagging behind these three is Mohamed Morsi, candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that came out of the starting blocks showing a moderate face but which has recently given out disturbing signals of a more conservative religious agenda. What is missing from this lineup of potentially electable candidates is a genuine liberal, that is, a candidate with no taint from the authoritarian past, and who does not advocate an Islamist agenda in some form. The candidate closest to this profile was Mohamed ElBaradei, the Noble Peace Prize-winning former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose sputtering campaign ended last January.
How did we come to this pass, where the two most powerful forces in the new Egypt either represent its authoritarian past, or else are Islamists of suspect liberal credentials? The Tahrir Square revolution of early last year was powered by angry young, middle-class Egyptians who used social media like Facebook and Twitter to organize their protests, spread word of regime atrocities, and build support for a democratic Egypt. At the time, there was much talk about how technology was empowering democracy and forcin