In a piece for The Washington Post's "Monkey Cage" blog, Assistant Professor of Political Science Sofia Fenner looks at the history of the New Wafd Party and its current influence on Egyptian politics.
At times in its long history, the Wafd has sharply criticized incumbent rulers; at others, it has been markedly silent. This constant flip-flopping looks to many observers like hypocrisy, but it also reflects the Wafd’s sharp internal divisions.
It can be tempting, when watching from afar, to assume that politics in authoritarian regimes will happen among well-known, organized actors in the public eye. Will the civilian intelligence apparatus challenge the military? Will established activist groups manage to organize protests against the regime? Will the Wafd confront Sissi?
However, more than four years after the 2013 military coup, public politics remains risky. Open confrontation can mean a quick ticket to prison, or worse. The resulting public quiescence can make the status quo seem permanent. But within these organizations—in ways that rarely make it into Western media—Egyptians are continuing to fight.
Fenner studies authoritarian politics with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa. Her research engages with the experiences of opposition groups to shed light on fundamental questions about co-optation, resistance, and political change.