On November 28, 2011, Egyptians went to the polls to begin electing a new parliament in three stages. It was in many respects the first genuine democratic election ever to be held in the country. Yet a number of momentous institutional decisions remain to be made that may affect the direction of Egyptian politics and society for years to come. Many of these will be foundational constitutional questions about the relationship between religion and state, particularly the degree to which Islamic law will be the source of legislation. But Egypt must also settle on a method for electing its representatives, and the universe of electoral laws is quite large.
Judging by the popular press, in January 2011 Twitter and Facebook went from being simply engaging social diversions to become engines of political change that upended decades of Arab authoritarianism. It is tempting to be swept away by this narrative, which suggests that social media prompted hundreds of thousands, and then millions, of Tunisians and Egyptians to pour into the streets and peacefully demand change. Brittle authoritarian regimes had little choice but to comply, and in this way, social media irrevocably changed the future of the Middle East. Following the logic to its conclusion, it would suggest that the Middle East is on the brink of a period of democratic consolidation, as the ideals and tools of revolutionaries lead the region forward into a period of anti-sectarianism, liberalism, and hope.