Patronage & Clientelist Politics in Egypt

On the fifteenth day of January 2011, during the celebration of the Egyptian police forces, the Egyptian citizenry broke into a protest against the increased rates of corruption in the Mubarak government. Within two weeks, the public successfully ousted Mubarak out of power. The political origin of the Arab spring was straightforward; the various regimes had failed to develop open and pluralistic political systems (The Guardian 159). There were also underlying economic reasons with the governments’ failure to provide employment opportunities to the young people.

The economic policies after adopted independence did not perpetuate inclusive growth (Jason 150). The economy did not grow speedily enough to provide sufficient employment opportunities to the fast growing population. There was slow economic growth, rapid population growth and low rates of employment. Food prices and poverty levels were also extraordinarily high. Inequality was widespread with irregular distribution of income (Rodger 60). The pre-Arab spring in Egypt was mainly characterized of an economic oppression regime that was used buy the elite to manipulate the lower status parties in exchange for voting them to power.

The country was marred with poor political systems that were highly corrupt state of emergency laws, authoritarian elections and religious fundamentalism (Sharabi, 200). After the 1967 Six Day War, an emergency law that limited the freedom of the people and certain constitutional rights was issued. The law allowed the state to detain individuals and easily censor newspapers. It also gave too much authority to the police (Sehata, 24), and this made them exploitative to the public.

Economic oppression of the people translated to child labour, overworking and remarkably little pay fin return and thereby this resulted to low national output with extremely little to invest in development projects and provision of public goods (Stephen 778). In ancient Rome, clients were the followers of an aristocrat, and they were related through a code of conduct and ethics. The clients were free from slavery, and the relationship was inherited. The patrons offered them jobs protection or even land to work on (Weber 265).

James Scott defines clientelism as a relationship in which a person with higher economic status called a patron uses his position of influence and resources to provide protection and other benefits to another person of a lower class. The client reciprocates by offering support from political to personal to the patron (Scott 197). There are eight characteristics of patron client relationships. It is dyadic, asymmetrical, reciprocal, personal and voluntary. First, clientelism is the trading of goods and services for political support.

In fact, it is regarded as a political system that involves asymmetric relationships between parties of political actors known as patrons and clients. It is a quid pro between groups and individuals of different social standing. In essence, collaboration entails actions founded on the principle of give and take with mutual benefits for both the patrons and clients. According to historian Richard Graham, it is the principle of take there and gives there. However, it is crucial to note that clientelism mostly involves a relationship between unequal parties.

Cash, goods, and services are some of the favours that the patrons expect from their clients (Contemporary Conflict 345). The growing literature in politics and defining political behaviours have given various definitions for clientelism practises in the society. Various scholars have argued that the various clients depend on the rewards that the population expects in return. With the general definition of clientelism being the exploitative relations between different groups in a society that includes exchange of favours and other benefits which results to class divisions of the elites and non elites (Joshua 563).

Clientelistic practises by the patrons do not thrive in upper class societies. It offers economic changes to the disadvantaged who offer a good target. Even the least awards influence the poor in giving their votes, they are illiterate, and they usually lack ideological commitments to guide their voting. In Egypt, such voters lack exposure to political campaigns and other enlightening literatures, unlike other enlightened voters (Rodger 61). The different theories developed help explain the relations between allocation of public services and the government in doing its duty to the public.

The theories also explain the happening in local governments in reconciliation with public factors. Orientalise by some politicians has enhanced the spread of services and goods to the citizens without determining the electoral costs of the process. Since the clients mostly acquire votes from the poor. Therefore, the levels of poverty shape the possibility for the progress of certain political systems (The Guardian 162). The clientelism aspect helps in emancipating the public and demand for democratic systems and the transfer of resources in reducing the poverty levels among the public at the expense of developments.

Individuals in traditional and poor societies who are not enlightened turn out in high numbers since in return they expect personal favours in return though in the end they may not enjoy developmental outcomes. Patronage is the practice of a politician filling government positions with qualified employees of their own choice. A patronage system gives elected leaders the right to appoint a certain number of people to positions in government (Aziz 272). Patronage is also known as the “spoil system”.

Clientelism and patronage politics are common in various contemporary societies. Some of the many societies in the globe including Egypt and West Bengal are some of the states, which have been dominated by certain groups. Developing countries are the most prone to clientelism, and the practise is accompanied by assumptions in technology and the voting behaviours of the people. It is also characterized by access to employment in the public sector and how elites and non-elites are valued differently in society (Blaydes 213).

Surveys conducted in areas in Egypt with random samples proved that individuals participated in elections depending on the expected benefits, favours, and relationships, which increased probability for getting benefits in return including political positions (Rodger 65). There is a need for measuring the government’s capacity though with difficulties in determining their genuineness. Such governments conduct elections due to pressures from international institutions and governments just to make their governments seem democratic.

In the Egypt system, elections conducted give a sign of how much the regime is supported, and it helps find ways of dealing with conflicts within the regions (Jason 152). In traditional societies as was the case in Egypt during the pre-Arab spring period, patron client relationship offered a platform for mobilization of low status groups by well-established elites (Contemporary Conflict 349). In essence, incentives linked to the voter turn out in Egypt’s electoral process during the pre-Arab spring, played a chief role in the voting trend amongst the vast majority.

Although some voters cast their vote based on ideological concerns, this is just a small percentage of voters unlike the majority who expected material benefits for voting for a particular leader. In addition, the vast majority cast their vote mainly due to pressure from the government in either a direct or an indirect manner. Thus, response to vote buying was high since the higher percentage of the population compromised of poor and illiterate parties (Blaydes 10). African states are recognized as the most affected by such political practises, and their votes casting depends on ties and clientelistic power of the rulers.

With the changing systems, neopatrimonialism has affected the state’s wealth production resulting to shrinkage in economic progress with the masses exposed and left to strain in poverty. Their plights, virtues and values in the society vary depending on the political relationships between the clients and patrons (The Guardian 165). This has significantly contributed to lowered levels of poverty in the region and also inadequate job availability, low incomes, and poor services to the public resulting to the inadequacies.

Hence, this gives the accurate meaning of politics, who gets what when, and how, depending on the various personal bonds and corporation hence defining the client-patron relations (Joshua 563). Clientelism and patronage in Egypt during the per-Arab period was enhanced by authoritarian elections. Hosni Mubarak’s regime is an example of the authoritarian regimes in Egypt. Egypt has witnessed an authoritarian regime with political dominance by the executive that oversees parliamentary elections (Kassem 178). She posses large politically relevant elite.

The elite is not determined by regional and political identity. Authoritarian rule has survived in Egypt for more than fifty years. The official branches of government have remained subservient to the domination of the executive. The support by the western countries like the US has allowed the political system in Egypt to adopt disparate legal guises while little is done to encourage genuine change. Although all the regimes had their own unique characteristics, the nature of the authoritarian rule in the presidency remained the same through the years.

The authoritarian regime organised manipulative strategies that sustained them. They only allowed limited liberalisation that encouraged self-privatisation, which never intended to result in genuine democratisation (Sharabi 562). Political liberalisation is not challenging to authoritarian rule because it is state-induced since the state retains the management over the process. Activist groups and lobby groups are some of the units, which help in the liberalization of the poor from exploitative and inconsiderable rules (Rodger 66).

After economic opening in the 1970s by President Sadat, the Egyptian middle class began to concentrate on the financial gains they would get. They strategically placed themselves in the ruling political party to where they built a compensation strategy of corrupted capitalism and state theft. This was epitomised by all Sadat’s successors. Following were successful and enduring authoritarian systems that depend on balanced utilisation of patronage and the adoption of exclusionary laws. The authoritarian regimes are mostly coercive (Aziz 276).

There is direct military intervention in terms of coups and military intervention that support the authoritarian regimes. Nasser during his reign promoted a modernisation economy using public sector, bureaucracy and mobilization of the lower classes against the elite class. This enhanced the establishment of a new social contract where the state outlines the economic rights while the working class submits. Nasser not only led the elite class, but also headed it. He used his charismatic leadership qualities to enhance his shrewd populist policies (Stephen 783).

Members of Egypt’s politically influential class treat parliamentary elections as a market for selection. Electoral contests serve as channels to renew clientelistic inclusion drawing both deputies and voters into networks of patronage that fill the top political system (Jason 157). There is formal inclusion of the opposition into the electoral arena to increase the range of possibilities of the ruling class on the rest in society. Informal institutions of the authoritarian rule to extent that they fulfil authoritarian functions subvert the formal electoral process (Kassem 179).

The elections reinforce rather than undermine the authoritarian regimes. It provides elites and some of their supporters with an opportunity to gain significant access to state resources that are rather limited (Blaydes 217). These resources are distributed to their clients in a process [popularly known as competitive clientelism. In essence, the elections give the ruling elite an opportunity to grant certain privileges to the local elite. This creates an incentive structure that sustains the regimes. Elections also set up a mechanism that allows for the distribution of patronage hence reduced demand for change.

The presidential elections often signal support for the incumbent dissuading potential candidates from challenging the regimes (Joshua 565). The elites influence the voter turnout ensuring that the majority of the votes is cast for the incumbent. Democratisation is rarely the agenda of these regimes despite the introduction of multiparty. Elections and consequently voting are only on the premise of expected democratisation. In fact, the elections are seen as competition over state resources or rather competitive clientelism (Maye 89). Parliamentarians rarely make laws.

Instead, they use their positions to influence and put pressure on the ministers and bureaucrats to give licences, jobs and other competitive state resources to their constituents (Sharabi 564). They succeed in doing so by using the media as a sort of advantage to threaten officials publicly of questioning their character if they do not meet the demands. As such, the role of parliamentarians is taken as a service rather than legislation. Individual wishing to join universities or get employment believe that they must seek help from certain accomplished people from the elite class.

Anecdotal evidence from Egypt testifies that such practices are common. People are aware that they need help from someone in order to accomplish their gaols hence they place those best suited to serve their interests in power (Contemporary Conflict 356). The legislators have direct access to most state resources that they in turn Dispense to their supporters. Obviously, the candidates that get to power also have their personal interests to serve they also desire their personal access to these limited resources.

Some parliamentarians have taken advantage of the immunity they have to participate in illegal activities and business making a lot of money out of them (Kassem 364). Power to them gives them the advantage of participating in all sorts of activities for pecuniary gain. The citizens view elections as a key to getting access to state resources that affect their choice of candidates and their willingness to vote (Blaydes 218). Essentially, people vote for the candidates they believe will deliver services to them and allow them direct access to resources.

Whenever the voters feel that the candidates available cannot meet these conditions, then they resolve not to vote at all. They see the candidates that have cordial relations with the state as best suited to represent them. Therefore, the candidates who are not linked to the incumbent elites potentially stand no chance. The voters expect the leaders to deliver services based on their personal ties to certain individuals not simply by the membership to a constituent (Stephen 787). As such, not all constituents are equal; there are those who appeal to their leaders as members of the same neighbourhood, clan or family.

In some cases, emphasis is laid depending on whether the candidate is a good son of the community. Political parties exist, but rarely have relevance to the people. Their leaders rather than their party names mostly know them. This is because they generally have poor organisation and dismal control over their candidates (Kassem 180). However, Islamist parties are an exception since they are closely knit by social service and religious organisations. They tend to be more respected by the people since they are better organised.

Still voters do not vote based on party membership, but the commitment to provide services. The contenders are well aware of their role of delivering services (Aziz 277). During their campaigns, they emphasise on their connections with the ruling elite and their ability to co-ordinate for state resources. Even candidates committed to performing their legislative role recognise that service is the main concern for voters. Most of the candidates support themselves financially all through the elections baring in mind the gains they would get while in power.

Thus, the elections here are treated as business investment. Given the credentials above, it is easier to understand the kind of elites that run for elective positions. Those opposed to the authoritarian system rarely run for office. it is used as a cover up for the nondemocratic regimes. Running for the office to them is a poor investment and ideologically wrong (Rodger 67). Ruling elites manage the elections with so much ease. They do this through institutional mechanisms rather than repression. The election rules are fashioned in a manner to shape the outcome in favour of these elites.

When these methods fail like was the case in Egypt in 2005, the rulers opt for repression (Jason 156). The NDP used several repressive strategies to have the outcome of the election in their favour. In the regions where the opposition parties were strong, the police were deployed to ensure that voters did not get to the polling stations. The journalists covering the voting process in these areas were attacked disabling them from reporting the malfunctions. The judges supervising the elections were critical of the happenings.

They were prosecuted while those using violence were allowed to operate without interruptions (Maye 99). During the campaign, there was minimised discussion and limited media coverage. The government was not willing to allow for monitoring of elections by both international and domestic observers. The election commission was nondependent, and hence the patrons had influence over them illustrating their ability to influence the election output after voting process. They rarely stick to legal requirements and do not uphold transparency to the other bodies in the society (Sharabi 567).

Their policymaking process is unclear and may appear to be democratic but only aims at serving their needs and helping them maintain the exploitative positions as officials and with influence to public commodities. The voting rights of the people are withheld and the formation of activist groups to express their opinions face challenges in advocating for their interests. Political space within such societies has a great impact on the disadvantaged groups, and they receive minimal government sponsored services including hospitality, transport and communication (Blaydes 220).

The patrons who use the vote buying strategy and other material exchanges for favour to get votes from the clients. During the pre-Arab spring in Egypt, exchanges for votes were done depending on the candidates offering more that was done on the day of elections. There also existed reports where those in search for power used force methods in an attempt to pursue the voters to vote for them (The Guardian 167). This showed the paralyzed national security system, and this gave conducive environment for the domination of all the systems by violent forces and complete disrespect for human rights.

In the new system, to ensure that the patrimonial practise lasts and succeeds, payments are done half before voting and completion is made after voting. Other systems use the camera phone, to be able to see what voters’ selection before completion of the voting exercise (Contemporary Conflict 359). Some of the regions in Egypt establish clientelistic relations to keep the rulers in long-term service to the public, and this can be maintained by doing favours like getting people jobs and sponsoring children for studies and other services (Aziz 278).

The personal assurances and kin relations satisfy individuals, which a common factor is considering a patrons success in holding political positions. The long-term relations in the current society are facing challenges due to increase in the enlightened populations in the society and the increased activism for human rights. In the old periods in Egypt, individuals got services like improved access to educational centres, transport and communication means, and access to health services by individuals in the region (Maye 100).

Politicians have fewer abilities to buy votes since their financial needs have resulted to tighter budgets, which do not allow of exploitation of finances. This has lowered their willingness to satisfy the clients’ needs in the various constituencies (Joshua 567). Some have adopted compulsory voting practises for all people in the society to help improve on the voter turn out. This helps in enhancing democratic practises within the state in electing leaders. Some of the systems have given sanctions to those who fail to vote and in systems where vote-buying expenses lead to rise in the budgets.

The voter turn out also determines the governments financial plans (Sharabi 567). The rule of Egypt by President Mubarak used an increased intricate system for individuals who did not vote and even threats to loss of jobs to those who fail to vote. Collaboration of the political officials with the security forces helps ensure that the process is conducted in a harmonious manner. During the politics by Mubarak in the effort to acquire the presidential post in Egypt, the media though titled to be independent, did not fairly accomplish the politics campaigns equally on the two competitors (Kassem 170).

Mubarak covered the front page in the newspaper article, most of the pictures sided with him more compared to his competitor, and this showed how the institutions were dominated by certain individuals with the power and capacities. The unequal coverage showed biases and this to a great extend, influenced the choices by voters and turn out for the polls. Such instruments used to distribute propaganda between competing bodies. Only the enlightened and the few sophisticated individuals can be able to resist the propaganda and argue against dictatorial governments.

The radio broadcasters were also dominated by the powerful in the society. With the parliamentary elections in Egypt dominated by client patron relations and vote buying, there are networks developed to assist in the distribution of goods and services to clients. This was also profoundly illustrated during the presidential elections. Data compiled to help in determining the literate and liberated population participating in elections showed that, literate individuals were slightly grater by 15% when compared to the illiterate persons (The Guardian 167). The illiterates though turned out in doubles of the literate population.

It was also clear that the poor populations turned out in recognizable numbers with considerably low turn out by the wealthier individuals. Scholars have reached the conclusion that, the rich have dominated politics in Egypt with the capacity to purchase votes and the poor individuals who trade their votes to the highest prices. In conclusion, I note that the political systems in Egypt are imperfect with dependent systems dominated by the powerful and thereby affecting the country’s economic progress. Egyptian commentators argue that for perfection of the political systems the literacy levels need to be improved and human rights respected.

Social and economic pressures, which push individuals to trading their votes, need to be eliminated (Kassem 367). The poverty levels together with imperfect election bodies and media services. The future of Egypt lies on transparency of those in power together with other bodies in the system. Egyptian leaders rely on voter turnouts and the selling capacities of votes to the aspiring leaders. Through research and intervention by international bodies and governments then Egypt will be able to transform to the democratic system (Stephen 789). Works Cited Contemporary Conflict, (2011). Web. 04 Dec. 2012.