The Arab Republic of Egypt is a country in the North-Eastern corner of the African continent bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west. Its geographical position, size and population, its intellectual achievements, its control of the Suez Canal and its position towards Israel have made Egypt a strategically important country. Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and has often taken or attempted to take the lead among Arab nations. Regarding the political system, not much is clear so far as a new constitution has not been completed yet. Until the uprising in January 2011, Egypt was considered a presidential republic where executive power was vested in the president, who was also Head of State.
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The legislative branch in Egypt consists of a bicameral system which is composed of the People’s Assembly (PA) (or Majlis al-Sha’b), and the advisory Shura Council. The number of seats in the PA is 508. 498 of those are elected by popular vote and 10 will be appointed by the president. The members serve a five-year term. The Shura Council, which functions mostly in a consultative role, is made up of 264 seats; 176 of which are elected by popular vote for a six-year term, and 88 who are appointed by the president. Ultimate judicial power lies within the Supreme Constitutional Court.
While Egypt has long been a presidential republic, with presidential elections every six years, the pre-uprising political situation can best be described as a dictatorship. Hosni Mubarak, who took over from the assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981, was serving his fifth term as president when he was ousted in 2011. Mubarak derived much of his ‘legitimacy’ by keeping the Islamist forces away from power, he also had close ties with the military which has a strong position in Egypt, until the military leaders turned against him during the 2011 revolution. In the 2005 presidential elections Mubarak was re-elected with 88.6%. The lack of fair elections and lack of change had turned many Egyptians away from politics in this period, turnouts rarely exceeded 15%, even though official figures were reported as much higher. Mubarak was also the leader of the National Democratic Party which dominated the parliament, with 420 out of 518 seats since the 2010 parliamentary elections, while the popular Muslim Brotherhood gained only 1 out of 88 seats reserved for independent candidates. The lack of real influence on political life, by fair and free elections, was one of the major motives for the protests in early 2011.
Egyptian revolution, 2011
The Tunisian revolution that broke out in December 2010 sparked the Egyptian people to take to the streets as well. Starting from the 25th of January large scale demonstrations were organised in different cities in Egypt calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule. Dissatisfactions over corruption, lack of freedom of speech, economic issues as food price inflation, high unemployment, low wages and the enrichment of the ruling elite were the reasons for the protests.
Rumours were spread on the 10th of February that Mubarak would announce his resignation that evening. Instead, he repeated he would remain in power until September. Angry that Mubarak did not step down, protests resulted in a nationwide escalation dubbed ‘Farewell Friday’ on the 11th of February. At 16.00 hour the same day the Egyptian Vice-president Omar Suleiman announced in a televised address that President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down and had handed over authority to the SCAF.
The SCAF announced that it will remain in charge of the country until a president has been elected. The military, headed by de facto Head of State Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, suspended the Constitution, dissolved the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council. On 30 March 2011 the SCAF issued a Constitutional Declaration setting out the constitutional provisions that will be in effect until a new constitution comes into force. The Constitutional Declaration was approved by referendum and contains 63 articles, compared to 211 articles in the suspended Constitution.
After the revolution in 2011, the Emergency Law that had been in force since 1981 was not lifted. In fact, it was renewed by the government for two years in May 2011, as the authorities explained the necessities of the Law to fight terrorism. However, it was mostly used to detain people without trial and to circumvent the civilian justice system. In the recent past the law was used to arrest members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was considered by the government as a political threat.
Surprisingly, albeit the extension of the Law in May, the military chief Tantawi announced its abolishment on the eve of the revolution anniversary on 25 January 2012. Although the international community praised the lift of the decades-old Law, it still applies in many cases such as terrorism and drug trafficking. In addition, the police remains to have wide powers to detain people without trial or indictments.
Constitutional referendum 2011
Around one month after the revolution in February, on 19 March 2011, Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on constitutional changes that will usher in elections. In total, the Egyptians voted in favour of a package of nine amendments to the constitution.
The changes included a restriction of the presidential terms from six years to four years and a limitation of two terms for the president. There will also be less restrictions for the nomination of a presidential candidate, and judicial supervision of the entire election process. The highest court will get the authority to arbitrate disputed election results and there will be restrictions on when the President can declare a state of emergency.
Under former President Hosni Mubarak, elections were state-managed affairs with pre-determined results and low turnouts. However, on the day of the referendum, more than 14 million voters, or around 77%, approved the constitutional amendments. 4 million, or around 23%, voted against them. According to the Egyptian government, the turnout of 41% among the 45 million eligible voters broke all records for recent elections.
People’s Assembly elections 2011
The elections for the new PA took place in multiple stages. On 28 November, 14 December 2011 and 3 January 2012 the Egyptians cast their ballot for the lower house elections. On each ballot, voters had to vote for a national party list and a local candidate in a first-past-the-post-system. Two-thirds of the 498 elected seats were filled based on the party lists and a proportional system, and the last one-third through the local candidates. An additional 10 politicians were chosen by the military chief.
On 29 and 30 January, Egyptians held the first round for the Shura Council, the upper house, in elections that will be staggered in two stages. The second round took place on 14 and 15 February, with run-offs on 22 February. The PA and the Shura will then appoint a 100-member council that will draft a constitution; a constitutional referendum will be held and eventually elections for a new president will take place. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) planned presidential elections for June 2012.
Turnout for the elections on 28 November was 59,1%, until then the highest ever in Egypt. The left-wing Egyptian Bloc Alliance, which has campaigned as the secular - or as it states in its official propaganda “civic” - alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, has secured 13.4% of the votes for the party lists.
The Freedom and Justice Party was the big winner of this round, securing almost 37% of the votes. In addition, the party did well in the run-offs, winning 31 of the 44 seats that were available. Second came the Salafist Nour Party. It managed to secure one fourth of the votes in the first round. The party strives for the installation of a stringent version of the Sharia law, and has announced that most of its more radical positions (such as a ban on alcohol and the position of females) are not up for negotiations. This line might put the party in an isolated position.
|Party||Votes for the party list||%||Candidates that won a seat through the first-past-the-post-system|
|Freedom and Justice Party||3,565,092||36.3%||33|
|Egyptian Bloc Alliance*||1,299,819||13.4%||2|
|Minor left-wing parties|
|Revolution Continues Alliance**||335,947||3.5%||2|
|Total valid votes||9,734,513||100%|
|Party||Percentage||Seats in PA|
(incl. Freedom and Justice Party)
(incl. Al-Nour Party)
|Reform and Development Bloc||1,6%||8|
|The Revolution Continues
(incl. SPAP and ESP*)
|Total of elections||98%||498|
|Appointed by SCAF||2%||10|
|Total in Peoples Assembly||100%||508|
Presidential Elections 2012
The 23rd of May marked what is commonly seen as a historic moment in Egypt, with the first free and democratic presidential elections. The first round in which 12 candidates competed against each other was held on the 23rd and 24th of May and took place in an orderly fashion, except for the assault on candidate Ahmed Shafiq after he casted his vote. Moreover, the process of the elections has been well received by both Egyptians as the international community. The voter turnout was 46.42%. For many it was their first time to vote in an election. While former President Mubarak used to get over 80% of votes, in this election the polls were unable to predict a winner.
On 28 May it was announced that Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq won most votes, although not enough to determine a definite winner. The following three best candidates were Nasserist and left-wing candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who by the revolutionaries was viewed as ‘one of us’ and has long been a strong opposition figure against Mubarak, also participated in founding the anti-Mubarak Kifaya (Enough) movement. Former Brotherhood candidate Abdel Fotouh came in fourth as the moderate Islamist candidate who was seen as able to bridge the gap between supporters of secularism and the Islamists, but was therefore also criticized of having too many different faces. Amr Moussa, who served as Foreign Affairs Minister under Mubarak and was the former President of the Arab League was the last candidate to receive more than 10% of the vote. He was seen as a liberal and as less affiliated with the Mubarak regime than Shafiq. The results of the first round are presented in the table below.
|Candidate||Number of votes||Percentage|
|Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh||4,065,239||17.4%|
|Mohamed Selim al-Awa||235,374||1.0%|
|Abu al-Ezz al-Hariri||40,090||0.01%|
|Mohamed Fawzi Eissa||23,889||0.01%|
|Hossam al-Din Kemal Kheirallah||22,036||0.01%|
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During the period between 1922, when Egypt formally gained its independence from the British mandatory power, and the revolution of 1952, Egypt experienced an era of relative political openness in which a certain measure of party pluralism was developed. The most famous party in this period was the Wafd party, which was founded in 1918 as an Egyptian delegation that pleaded for complete Egyptian independence from the British. In January 1953, all political parties were disbanded and a one-party system was officially adopted. The ruling party would be called the Liberation Group (1953-1956), the National Union (1956-1962) and the Arab Socialist Union (1962-1976), respectively.
In 1976, former Egyptian President Sadat called for the Arab Socialist Union to be split in three parts. The left wing was to be called the National Progressive Unionist Organisation (later the Tagammu), the central wing would be the Egypt Arab Socialist Organisation (later the NDP), and the right wing would be known as the Liberal Socialist Organisation (now al-Ahrar, the Liberal Party). In 1977, a new law stated that parties should not be formed on ethnic, racial, geographical or discriminatory bases due to sex, origin, religion or creed. Two parties that did obtain legal status were the Wafd Party (now known as New Wafd) and the Socialist Labour Party. One more party , the Nation Party, was legalised in the 1980s, while the last 20 years have seen the creation of around 14 new parties, bringing the total at the end of Mubarak’s rule to around 20. This system has allowed presidents Sadat and Mubarak to claim that Egypt enjoyed political pluralism and even democracy, while at the same time it manipulated the system to ensure continued supremacy of the NDP. All the other parties were relegated to a role in the very margins of Egyptian politics by the state’s (i.e. NDP) playing them off against each other, harassing them, or freezing them as the situation warrants.
As a result of this history, many of the parties in Egypt were not real political parties in the Western sense of political movements developed by certain segments of society with a particular ideology or programme. After the fall of Muburak, many parties that more closely resemble this western model were established. Also, many former non-active parties came back to the political scene with renewed vigour. In total, over 50 parties and more than 6000 independent candidates have been participating in the elections, many of them formed alliances - that are often, but not always, based on ideology - in order to cut campaign budgets and optimize electoral gains. After the elections for the upper house, the post-revolutionary political landscape will take shape and the most important parties are described below.
Social-Democratic and left wing parties
Egyptian Social Democratic Party
Party Leader: Mohammed Abou El-Ghar
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party was founded shortly after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak by the merger of two minor parties, the Egyptian Democratic Party and the Liberal Egyptian Party. The party straddles a fine line between free enterprise and social justice. It advocates a civil state based on citizenship and social and economic rights are important issues. It was the largest member of the Egyptian Bloc Alliance in the 2011/2012 parliamentary elections, which positions itself as a secular, left-wing alternative to the Islamist parties.
Party leader: Mohamed Rifat Al-Saeed
The Tagammu’ Party, or the Nationalist Progressive Unionist Party, was created in 1976 out of the left wing of the Arab Socialist Union. It is a leftist party which calls for the establishment of a socialist society free of exploitation. It believes in a class struggle that should be resolved peacefully and bases its programme upon the goals of the 1952 revolution. The most important goals are rejecting religious extremism; building the character of the Egyptian citizens; ending the state monopoly over the media; raising awareness of environmental issues and developing Egyptian industries. While the party once enjoyed strong support from the working class, professional unions, universities, and intellectuals, its influence among these groups has since waned. It is a minor partner in the Egyptian Bloc Alliance, that competed in the 2011/2012 elections.
Other Main Parties
Freedom and Justice Party
Party leader: Mohammed Morsi
Seats: 213 (the Democratic Alliance of which the party is member obtained 235 seats)
On 30 April 2011 Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) officially announced the formation of the Freedom and Justice Party to contest up to half the seats in the parliamentary elections and to become a major force in the country’s post-revolution politics. The party succeeded in its goals, gaining nearly half of the seats in the lower house in the 2011/2012 elections. It was the largest member of the Democratic Alliance.
Mohammed Hussein, the Brotherhood’s secretary general, said at a press conference that the party will be independent from the MB, but will “coordinate with it.” Mohammed Morsi described the platform of the Freedom and Justice party as civil, but with an Islamic background that adheres to the constitution and democratic principles. “It is not an Islamist party in the old understanding, it is not theocratic.” He indented to allay fears that the Freedom and Justice Party would be dominated by religious ideology and Islamic conservatism. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood also declared that it does not object to the election of women or Copts in cabinet, but it said that both are unsuitable for presidency. The group supports free-market capitalism, and the party’s political program includes tourism as a main source of national income.
The Muslim Brotherhood struggled for more than eight decades to form a legitimate political party. Under the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was barred from politics and mentioned as a terrorist organization that threatened the country’s democracy. In 2005, the MB became the largest group in the opposition bloc by its independent candidates winning 20% of the parliamentary seats. However, in 2010 the group did not win more than one seat in the November election that was regarded as rigged in favour of Mubarak’s ruling party NDP.
Party Leader: Emad Abdel Ghaffour
Seats: 111 (the Islamist Alliance of which the party is member obtained 124 seats)
Al-Nour is a Salafi political party founded after the January 2011 uprising. Salafism is an orthodox branch of Islam which sees the first generations of the followers of the prophet Muhammad as examples for how all aspects of life should be organized. The party advocates gradual reform under the slogan: “The only reform we desire is the reform we can achieve.” This slogan is based on a view of the principles of Islam as a comprehensive framework for religion and state.
Party leader: Sayyid al-Badawi
The Al-Wafd, created in 1978, is essentially a continuation of the pre-1952 Wafd Party. It is a liberal capitalist party that calls for public freedoms and a maximum reduction of the economic role of the state. It encourages Arab and foreign investment, the liberalisation of foreign trade and the exchange rates, privatisation of certain parts of the public sector. Most of the Wafd economic ideas had been taken over by the former NDP. On the issue of political freedom and democratic reform, however, the Wafd is much more liberal than the NDP used to be. Although the party has lost influence over the last 20 years, the Al-Wafd is often regarded as a strong opposition party. This is due to the legitimacy of the old Wafd, the possession of greater financial resources than other parties, and the several offices throughout the country. The Al-Wafd is attempting to portray itself as an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The dissolved National Democratic Party
Former party leader: Hosni Mubarak
The National Democratic Party was officially founded in 1978 as a continuation of the central part of the Arab Socialist Union. According to its program the party was committed to the ideals of the 1952 revolution. Apart from ending the monarchy and British dominance, these ideals were the implementation of agrarian reform, nationalization of key industries, a one-party state, and closer ties with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. It is clear that the NDP’s proclaimed continuing loyalty to these ideals existed on paper only. The NDP was officially committed to political freedom, social justice, and implementing democracy. However, the party was ideologically extremely weak. It lacked further ideological direction which could define it as either left or right, and it did not even live up to its own rhetoric. It was, thus, more a framework of regime domination than a traditional political party.
On April 16 2011, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court officially relegated the once-supreme National Democratic Party to history, ruling that the party would be dissolved and its assets seized by the government.
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Minister of Defense, and chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)
As head of the executive and military, Tantawi is considered Egypt’s de facto interim president. He joined the Egyptian army in 1956 as an infantry officer. He has served in five armed conflicts and held various commands before being appointed defence minister in 1991. He was appointed to the position of deputy prime minister after anti-Mubarak protests erupted in January 2011 and remained in that post until Mubarak transferred power to then-Vice President Omar Suleiman and the SCAF on February 11. He is an unlikely individual to guide the transition, having served as an important minister and close confidante to Mubarak for 20 years. He vowed to step back after a new president is chosen. The presidential elections are due in June 2012. However, current protests and riots in the country put pressure on the military council to relinquish power earlier.
Mohamed Morsi was elected president in the run-off of Egypt’s first free elections held in 2012. He participated as a former member of the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood and chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), taking over the candidacy of Khairat al-Shater who was disqualified from running by the High Election Commission due to a past fraud conviction. He has a long history of activism within the Muslim Brotherhood and was detained several times, the last time being on January 28, 2011 during the revolution, Morsi was a member of the Egyptian People’s Assembly from 2000 to 2005.
In his victory speech on 24 June, 60-year old Morsi, urged Egyptians "to strengthen our national unity" and promised to be a president for all Egyptians. Therefore he gave up his membership of the Muslimbrotherhood and is in search of independent ‘technocrats’. Morsi has pledged to restore security and improve the heavily damaged economy.
Former Secretary-General of the League of Arab States
Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and former foreign minister of Egypt, is considered as a front-runner in the 2012 Egyptian presidential race. Moussa’s popularity comes from his sharp criticism of U.S. support for Israel and his strong opinions. Moussa was born in 1936 and began his diplomatic career after earning a law degree at the Cairo University in 1957. From 1974 to 1990 he worked at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in 1990 he served as Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations. From 1991 till 2001 Amr Moussa was Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Mubarak regime. In 2001, Moussa was elected as Secretary General of the League of Arab States.
Amr Moussa is married and has two children.
Former Egyptian President
The 82-year-old former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, ruled Egypt for almost three decades. Mubarak was born in 1928 in a village near Cairo. Under Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, Mubarak was Deputy Minister of War from 1972 to 1975. In 1975, he became Vice-President and after Sadat was assassinated, on October 6, 1981, Mubarak became President.
Hosni Mubarak ruled as a quasi-military leader when he took power, and kept the country under emergency law. He won three elections unopposed since 1981, but for his fourth contest in 2005 - after a firm push from the US and other countries- he changed the system to allow rival candidates. However, Mubarak was often accused of suppressing opposition groups and holding unfair elections. In 1995, he escaped an assassination attempt at an African unity summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Abeba.
In 2011, after 18 days of massive protests and demonstrations against the government, Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February. After his resignation, he and his family fled to a villa at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. He was arrested on 13 April 2011. The trial is probably ending in mid-February. Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty.
Mubarak is married to half-British Suzanne Mubarak, and they have two sons: Gamal and Alaa.
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