Egypt's Constitutional Test: Averting the March toward Islamic Fundamentalism

After gaining overwhelming support in a March 2007 national referendum, long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak introduced new constitutional amendments that effectively give more power to the president and loosen controls on security forces. Mubarak's amendments constitute the latest move in a set of orchestrated plans not only to entrench the stronghold of his own National Democratic Party and pave the way for his son as his successor but also to curb the power and ambition of his greatest opposition – the Muslim Brotherhood. As he steps into his fifth consecutive six-year term in office, Mubarak and his regime are being met with harsh criticism as opposition groups, human rights advocates, and Western governments urge for meaningful democratic reform in the country. But promoting democracy is a complex issue in Egypt, and indeed in much of the Arab world. Mubarak and other leaders face the Islamist Dilemma, where any move toward a more democracy-friendly political system threatens to empower Islamic militants and open the floodgates for nonsecular political parties.