In the first quarter of 2018, 59 research papers were published on Egypt by 22 think tanks internationally. More than half of the research papers and policy analysis published focused on the 2018 presidential elections, the Egyptian political landscape, the economy, and foreign aid. Fewer papers focused on the human rights situation, judicial affairs, military affairs and security.
In contrast, the second quarter of 2018, that immediately followed the March elections, witnessed a drop in research papers with a total of 41 policy papers by 15 think tanks. The vast majority of these institutions, between April to June, published on democratization and development, security and the military, human rights and the economy. The increasing crisis in Sinai contributed to the pivot in research on human rights, military affairs, and security. Research post-election also included discussions around the aftermath of Sisi’s electoral victory, specifically the crackdown on protesters and government control of the media.
The main institutions that contributed to analysis and commentary between March and June 2018 were Carnegie, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, the Egyptian Institute for Studies, Human Rights Watch, and POMED.
With regards to the military, security and human rights, research centered around the Sinai military operation and humanitarian crisis, where a nexus of these three issues are present. Researchers from HRW explain that the “the Egyptian government campaign against an affiliate of the Islamic State group in North Sinai has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid since February 9, 2018”. Also, ”the Egyptian army has been responsible for a large number of incidents in which civilians have been killed, alienating large portions of the local population and serving as propaganda and incentives for IS recruitment” as further explained by a researcher at Jamestown. Carnegie issued an additional research paper confirming that there have been “coordinated military campaigns against militants operating in the Sinai Peninsula”.
Moreover, several papers looked at the developing situation with Egypt’s democratization, judicial affairs, and civil society. The primary topic of discussion is the crackdown on dissent of the media and Sisi’s suppression of effective political opposition parties. The Arab Center Washington DC documented findings by the ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’ that “authorities intensified censorship measures, arresting journalists on ‘fake news’ and national security charges, enforcing fines, and raiding and shutting down and blocking news websites”. A POMED report on the civil democratic movement argues that “a brutal crackdown on Egypt’s embattled independent journalists continues”, and that “the regime did its best to boost its profile while marginalizing all opposition to the regime and its handling of the elections”.
The economy has been the overarching consistent theme of research since January 2018. The role of the military within the Egyptian economy under President Sisi has been an aspect of the economy of interest to several think tanks. According to Transparency International “under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s armed forces have worked hard to cement their powerful position, which grants them unique economic privileges and removes them from independent, civilian scrutiny.” The Egyptian Institute for Studies states that “after the coup d’etat and the military control over the capabilities of the economic life in Egypt, corruption rates have increased” and “the Egyptian Army was the first supervisor on the Egyptian economy through the protection of the strategic assets of its basic investment key partners in the periods of turmoil”. While the military solidifies its control over the economy, the Economic Research Forum reported on the youth employment crisis in Egypt explaining that “youth unemployment in Egypt is concentrated among those with a university education: 34% of graduates are now without work and many more are stuck in insecure, low-status and low-paid work”.
Finally, to a lesser extent, there were analysis written on Islamic movements and institutions, culture and education, which focused on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood within Egyptian society after Sisi took power. This topic has had little attention since late 2017 and the first quarter of 2018. But a June 2018 Congressional Subcommittee on National Security hearing examining the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood to the United States prompted a few analysis papers on this topic. The Jamestown Foundation argues that contrary to the Egyptian State’s narrative in justifying its repression, “there is still no concrete evidence of there being any real shift either among the base or the [Muslim Brotherhood] leadership toward adopting a violent strategy”.
In conclusion, in comparison with the first quarter, our analysis has shown a clear shift away from Sisi’s solidification of power through the recent elections to analysis on the events and crisis taking place in Northern Sinai and the implications of Egypt’s military operations on security, and human rights, while additional research papers have discussed the growing suppression of media and opposition in Egypt in contrast to the March 2018 pre-election era.