The fall of the Soviet Union and the breakdown of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa led to increased attention towards simultaneous processes of transitions from authoritarian to more liberal or democratic rule. The Middle East and North Africa has however not been part of this wave of democratizations. Yet, over the last years, the issue of political reform in the Middle East has become the focus of debates in both civil society groups and political parties, as well as within the Muslim Brotherhood, and has even led Arab governments to acknowledge the need for (at least limited) reform. This growing reform interest has also led to increased optimism among many observers for the possibilities of democratization taking place in the region. However, others have argued that reform talk has by far exceeded actual implementation, and that most of the implementations do not affect the authoriatarian characters of the regimes. Political observers have also expressed distress over the ineffectiveness of the Egyptian opposition and its inability to unite.
The aim of this thesis is to explain why the oppositional groups in Egypt have not been able to unite around a common strategy for democratization of the political system. This interest stems from the puzzle of why the opposition has not been able to create a national pact, compared to transitional experiences in Latin America and Eastern Europe, which could bridge oppositional differences and stimulate the emergence of a popular movement for reform. The theoretical framework is structured around three hypotheses, assuming that state management of the opposition, ideological differences, and personal political rule can explain the opposition’s disunity. The methodology used is secondary analysis of formal studies, and informant interviews. The main conclusion is that the opposition is divided because of measures taken by the regime to constrain oppositional activity and prevent cooperation. However, distrust based on ideological differences between Islamists and non-Islamists have also played a significant role. Finally, personal political rule also to some extent explains the absence of a common strategy, but it is analytically difficult to separate this mechanism from the influence of the regime.