Many Western politicians and commentators expressed surprise and even alarm over Egypt’s revolution, as the military ousted President Mohamed Mursi from power. Yet, examining the history of revolutions shows that these upheavals usually destroy more than they build – and, over the last 400 years, have rarely created durable democracies.
For a revolution to succeed and lead to democracy, five key factors are needed: A strong economic base to support democratic politics, an educated public, a supportive regional environment, tolerance for opposing ideas and an inspiring national leader. When a country does not possess all or most of these qualities, it is unlikely that a revolution can lead to long-term democracy.
Is current revolutionary failure in Egypt limited to the unique aspects of the Mursi regime or is it of broader consequence? The history of modern revolutions and the probable course of events in years to come offer an important guide to the future.
One big problem, many commentators now assert, is that Egypt has had two revolutions since 2011. However, multiple revolutions are historically the norm, not the exception.