“Healing without amputating?”: security reform in Egypt

Under Mubarak, state institutions underwent considerable strain, a consequence of the “vicious circle of legitimacy” described by Samer Soliman: a regime lacking in legitimacy cannot raise extra taxes nor can it begin to combat tax evasion, leading to increasing pressure on budgets. This in turn limits its capacity to modernise and maintain the quality public services, leading to an increased legitimacy gap, and further complicating the realisation of fiscal policy.
Against this backdrop, the regime pushed for the development of security services, which attained a hegemonic position in Egyptian society, clamped down on citizens’ daily lives, allowing for corruption to blossom and for their semantics to take over.
One attempt at reform of various non-security institutions, led by Gamal Mubarak, consisted in letting smaller, highly effective bodies circumvent the larger institutions, deemed impossible to reform. However in the case of the Interior Ministry, any such attempt would only threaten to disturb national peace and order. The only way to go about reform is therefore to confront the problem directly, even if solutions appear in no way evident. I will not suggest any at this point. Instead, I will attempt to show that drawing up a list of the problems and suggested solutions is necessary but not sufficient, and that calls for a total overhaul of security institutions are both adequate and unrealistic. I will also attempt to bring in some maxims from other experiences. I hope this paper would start a constructive foundational debate.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.