This article argues that accumulative bad governance over three decades of Mubarak's regime represents one of the main reasons why people revolted. Bad governance contributed to the fall of the regime in three fundamental ways: first, it created the conditions (such as rampant corruption, violation of human rights and absence of rule of law) that served to inspire public action against the rulers; second, it led to the breakdown of core elements critical for regime stability (within the bureaucracy and the judiciary for example) and third, it catalysed the middle-class who played a key role in agitating for the uprisings via Facebook and other social media. However, in exposing the dynamics of bad governance in Egypt, this article suggests that the problem is not only one of governance gone bad but the very ‘good governance’ paradigm promoted by international actors. By focusing on institutional reform, the good governance paradigm did not capture the way in which actors, processes and values become diffuse across the state-society divide. A relational governance approach would be more analytically useful in capturing and engaging with some of these dynamics.