Youth political engagement in Egypt: From abstention to uprising

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Political Science Department

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Research Article

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British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies

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This study analyses the dynamics of youth political engagement in Egypt in the light of 'dual motivation' theory, which defines political engagement in terms of both citizens' interest in changing the outcome of elections and the prevalence of social capital conducive for political engagement. The first part of the article focuses on the dynamics of political mobilisation in general, prior to the uprising of 25 January 2011. The second part examines the political attitudes and levels of political participation of young people prior to the uprising. The study found that the youth believed in democratic values but did not participate politically. This is explained not by a lack of social capital but rather by an understanding of the dynamics of authoritarian rule and corruption, leading to a general abstention from civic and political engagement. Nevertheless, with the changing international circumstances, especially the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia, youth movements in Egypt have proved capable of framing the issue of regime change effectively, leading ultimately to contention on the streets and the toppling of Mubarak. Dualmotivation theory, therefore, might not be applicable in authoritarian regimes but in democratising regimes both elements of the theory appear relevant. © 2012 British Society of Middle Eastern Studies.

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