On 14-15 January, Egyptians voted for the first time since the ouster of President Morsi in a two-day referendum on a new constitution. The new constitution was approved by over 95% and has given a boost to military powers. The new charter replaced the constitution passed under Morsi months before he was overthrown.
On July 3rd 2013 Egypt’s first freely elected leader Mohamed Morsi was removed from power by the Egyptian Armed Forces, led by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, after days of mass street protests calling for him to step down. After his removal Morsi was put under house arrest. The Egyptian youth movement Tamarod has played a major role in initiating the street protests and was supported by the National Salvation Front, April 6 Youth Movement and the Strong Egypt Party. On July 17th the interim cabinet was sworn in by Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour. The new technocratic government is led by Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaaeddin, two members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP).
On August 14th Egypt imposed a one-month state of emergency after hundreds of people were killed when Egyptian security forces moved into camps in Cairo which were occupied by supporters of ousted President Morsi. Many protesters who had been holding sit-ins in and around Egypt’s capital city were dispersed by armed vehicles. As a result of the violent clashes interim Vice-President Mohamed el-Baradei resigned saying peaceful means could still have been found to end the confrontation, but other members of the government rallied behind the decision to use force. According to Amnesty International at least 1,089 people were killed between 14 and 18 August.
A few days after this, on August 23rd, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was released from prison and sent to a military hospital under house arrest as he stands trial on corruption and murder charges. In the meantime several Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been prosecuted for inciting or taking part in violence, along with them former President Morsi.
The Egyptian revolution of 2011 and Morsi's rise to power
The Tunisian revolution that broke out in December 2010 sparked the Egyptian people to take to the streets as well. Large scale demonstrations were organised 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. On 11 February 2011 it was announced that Mubarak had stepped down.
Later in June 2012, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi won the first free presidential elections. A new cabinet was formed, which was dominated by technocrats and Islamists and excluded from secular parties. Additionally, President Morsi dismissed the Defence Minister and Chief of Staff and stripped the military of power over any legislation and drafting of the new constitution.
In November 2012 Morsi issued a decree providing him as president with extensive new powers. The decree, condemned by Egypt’s top judges, lead to angry demonstrations. A draft constitution, which boosted the role of Islam in Egypt’s system of government, was approved despite the boycott by liberal, left-wing and Christian members of the constituent assembly. The division about the constitution and government continued and escalated in 2013, with the removal of Morsi as a climax.
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.
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%|
Because no candidate received a majority of the votes cast, a runoff between Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq took place on 16 and 17 June. The latter encountered a lot of opposition, being criticized as a remnant of the Mubarak regime - having been Prime Minister between 29 January and 3 March 2011, while others see him as the person who was most likely to bring stability. Consequently, the period between the two election rounds was marked by polarisation, tumult and repeated protests, not in the least because of decisions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). One of the decisions comprised the dissolution of the newly elected parliament, since elections were found invalid. Shafiq was allowed to partake in the run-off because SCAF found a parliamentary law which would bar affiliates of the old regime invalid. Furthermore, the SCAF has demonstrated that it will seek to control the process on writing a new constitution by giving itself and the courts veto power over any article that they disapprove of.
The second election round proceeded less organised than the first round, as the two presidential campaigns exchanging accusations of electoral fraud. Furthermore, illegal campaigning in front of polling stations, vote-buying, influencing voters to choose certain candidates and arranging votes for military and police personnel were reported. Meanwhile, a handful of activists from the April 6 Youth Movement was arrested while campaigning against Shafiq. However, large proportions of the electorate felt reluctant to vote for either one of the candidates, who in their eyes did not represent the revolutionary ideals. Eventually the total voter turnout came down to 51,6%.
The day after the elections the Muslim Brotherhood immediately declared their candidate, Mohamed Morsi, the winner of the run-off. In reaction, Ahmed Shafiq did the same. But it took a week to find out who the real winner was, although it is suggested that this time was taken by the SCAF to consider whether they would dare to pronounce Shafiq the winner. Eventually it was announced on 24 June, that Morsi won with 51,7% of the vote, representing around a quarter of the Egyptian population. While Islamists and the so-called revolutionary youth celebrated this outcome, many other Egyptians are worried about the future. Among them are Copts and many women. On 30 June Morsi will assume presidency, at the expense of military rule. However, seen the unfinished constitution, it is still unclear what power the president will have.
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said in a statement that he "respects the outcome" of the election, and "expects to continue co-operation with the Egyptian administration". The White House also congratulated Mursi, and urged him to "advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies".
People’s Assembly elections 2011-2012
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.
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||% of the votes||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|
Constitutional referendum 2014
On January 14 and 15, Egyptians voted for the first time since the ouster of President Morsi in a two-day referendum on a new constitution. The new charter replaces the constitution passed under Morsi months before he was overthrown. The new constitution was drafted by a 50-member committee that included only two representatives of Islamist parties. The Muslim Brotherhood, however, was not represented. An Islamist coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood called for a boycott and “civilized peaceful protests” during the two-day referendum. Many of Egypt’s secular opposition joined the protests against the government and the new charter. Nine people were killed on the first day of voting in clashes between security forces and those who opposed the new constitutional amendments. The Interior Ministry said 444 people were arrested during the two-day vote.
On January 18, the Supreme Electoral Committee announced that 98.1 percent of Egyptians voting in the referendum approved the amended national charter, with a turnout rate of 38.6 percent.
The new constitution will boost military powers, allowing the army to appoint a defense minister for the next eight years. It also allows civilians to be tried before military courts. It also stipulates that the military's budget will be beyond civilian oversight. Critics said the new constitution will strengthen state institutions that defied Morsi: the military, the police and the judiciary at the expense of the people.
The authorities maintained that the new draft delivers more rights and freedoms, and is a crucial step on the road to stability. According to its supporters, the new constitution expands women’s rights and freedom of speech, going a long way from the Islamist-inspired wording of Morsi’s constitution, which was suspended following his overthrow. They say the new constitution will bring stability to Egypt after three years of turmoil.
The opposition accused Egypt's mostly pro-military media of falsifying reports on the turnout. "They are trying to cover-up their early defeat," said a statement from the Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup and Pro-Democracy Alliance, claiming the turnout was a mere 15 percent in southern Egypt. The referendum's integrity has also been challenged by other opposition members and rights campaigners, who say the poll was conducted against a backdrop of fear.
US-based Democracy International (DI), the largest international organization who monitored the referendum, criticized both the political climate of the referendum and the actual undertaking of the vote. DI monitors expressed “serious concerns” about the political climate, which virtually guaranteed a Yes vote. “There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s roadmap or the proposed constitution to dissent,” the statement noted, citing “a backdrop of arrests and detention of dissenting voices”.
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.
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 would also be less restrictions for the nomination of a presidential candidate, and judicial supervision of the entire election process. The highest court would get the authority to arbitrate disputed election results and there would 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, around 77%, approved the constitutional amendments. 4 million, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Adly Mansour was born on December 23, 1945 in Cairo. He earned a postgraduate degree in law and also in management science. In 1992 Mansour was appointed as deputy head of the Supreme Constitutional Court and served for a long time under former President Hosni Mubarak. He helped draft the supervision law for the presidential elections that brought Morsi to power in 2012 and became president of the Supreme Court under Morsi’s presidency. On July 3rd Mansour was appointed interim President of Egypt by Minister of Defense General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, following the ousting of Morsi. As President Mansour restored the position of the vice-president and nominated Mohammed el-Baradei to this post and appointed Hazem el-Beblawi as prime minister. One of Mansour’s main roles is to amend the under Morsi Islamist-drafted constitution and issue constitutional declarations until parliamentary elections are held.
Interim prime minister
Hazem el-Beblawi was born on October 17, 1936, in Cairo and studied economy and law in Egypt and France. He taught at academic institutions and headed the Export Development Bank of Egypt from 1983 to 1995. He also served as United Nations undersecretary-general from 1995 to 2000. After the 2011 revolution, which Beblawi supported, he became a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and was appointed to the government as minister of finance. However, he resigned from this post in October 2011 over the government’s handling of Christian Coptic protests in which dozens were killed by security forces. Following the ousting of Morsi, Beblawi was appointed as interim prime minister on July 9th, 2013 and subsequently suspended his membership in the Social Democratic Party. He is known for his liberal views on the economy and supports a free market system in Egypt. On August 17th Beblawi proposed the legal dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood.
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