In April 1974, in a small square of Lisbon, thousands of people, supporting a military coup led by low-ranking officers, demanded the end of an authoritarian regime. They asked for Liberty and Democracy. Today, millions of Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square with these same simple claims.
We know that the genesis of the Portuguese transition was unusual and unique, not only due to the fact that the military coup was driven by low rank officers, but alto to the immediate symbiosis between the revolutionary armed forces and people thirsting for freedom; and therefore it is unlikely that Egypt will present the same revolutionary path. It is desirable though that Egypt finds a stable path for the establishment of a functional and pluralistic democracy, and, in the 'menu' available for transitions, the Portuguese case presents some good examples that can be followed or taken into account, such as an election of a Constituent Assembly supported by a fair set of fundamental laws (Election Law, Parties Law and the Press Law), and the management of post-authoritarian and elitist solutions (such as the proposed constitutional referendum by Spinola).
Egypt finds itself today in this transitional crossroads: fall of an authoritarian regime, power vacuum, intervention of military forces, political bargaining between different political forces, formation of a provisional government. This is therefore an important moment for systemic definition, and where, in my opinion, some of the most interesting aspects of the current "democratic wave" can be found, especially because societal conditions and characteristics of political leaders are today different from 30 or 40 years ago.
Today we live, to some extent, embedded in a post-partisan political culture, technologically developed and very active and engaged (see, for example, the role of the Movement on April 6 in current demonstrations) and it will be interesting to follow the path of many current social movements (and their leaders); movements created under the influence of the new social networks (of Twitters and Facebooks), and that threaten to replace the need for the existence of political parties in the relationship between citizens and political life, to the same extent that the Reformation of the sixteenth century replaced the need for an institution (the Church) to mediate the relationship of the faithful with God.
Portugal, to some extent, lived a ‘Hot Summer’ under these auspices (the advent of a political dimension at the margin of the party system), and never knew how to frame the energy and democratic values of these grassroots movements into the mainstream political system. This led to the total hegemony of Parties in our democratic procedures and to the crystallization and emaciation of our party system, detrimental feature to our quality of democracy.
Hopefully Egypt will find a way not to repeat the mistakes that many Western democracies have done, and might design a democratic political system more aware of current different political actors (that today are not just political parties).