State and politics
Egypt lacks democratic tradition. After the military took
power in 1952, an authoritarian state was built based on a
strong presidential power legitimized by the military whose
influence permeated all parts of society. Presidents Gamal
Abdel Nasser (1956–70), Anwar as-Sadat (1970–81) and Hosni
Mubarak (1981–2011) were all originally military and, as
presidents, had control over the entire state apparatus.
Even Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, who in practice has been Egypt's
most powerful man since the election of the elected
President Muhammad Mursi in July 2013, and who won in the
2014 and 2018 presidential elections, is basically military.
The many transformations of the Egyptian Republic are
reflected in its constitutions of 1953, 1956, 1958, 1964 and
1971 and additions 1980, 2005 and 2007. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of EG and its meanings of Egypt. Following Mubarak's
fall, a new constitution was adopted, which was approved in
a referendum in 2012. Since the resignation of President
Mursi in the summer of 2013, a new constitution in a
referendum in January 2014.
According to the constitution, which is basically based
on the 1971 constitution, the Arab Republic of Egypt is a
democratic, Islamic state where Sharia (Islamic law) forms
the basis of the legislation. The executive power is held by
the President, who is the country's commander-in-chief and
appoints the Prime Minister, who in turn leads the
government, which must be approved by Parliament. By
constitutional amendments approved in 2019, the president's
term of office was extended from four to six years, which
also meant that al-Sisi's current term expires in 2024
instead of 2022. The president can be re-elected once, but
al-Sisi will be allowed to stand also in 2024, which makes
it possible for him to remain in power until 2030.
In 2019, the rules that were introduced in 2014 and which
gives the defense management the right to approve who should
be permanent defense minister. In addition to protecting the
country, the military has been given the task of
guaranteeing that the constitution is upheld.
The MPs are elected for five years in general elections.
Since the 2015 election, the House of Representatives has
596 members. Of these, 448 were elected by majority vote in
one-man constituencies while 120 seats were weighted for
candidates on party lists; half of the candidates on these
lists must be women. The party that receives a majority in a
constituency is assigned all seats. The remaining 28 members
are appointed directly by the president, who is allowed to
appoint up to 5 percent of parliamentarians. Of the total
number of MPs, 89 (15 per cent) were women after the 2015
election, which is the highest proportion in the country's
history; 14 of these were appointed by the President.
The constitutional changes in 2019 mean that in the
future the House of Representatives will have 450 members,
of which at least a quarter will be women. The upper house,
the Senate, which was abolished in 2014 must be
re-established. Of the 180 members, two-thirds shall be
appointed by election and the other shall be appointed by
Since Egypt formally became an independent kingdom in
1922, until 1952 its policy was primarily a triangular
struggle between the King, the British Embassy and the Wafd
Party (al-Wafd al-Misri 'the Egyptian delegation').
This had been formed in 1918 with the requirement that Egypt
should send a delegation to Europe's peace conferences after
the World War. The Wafd demanded Egypt's total independence
from the British, which would, however, be achieved by
peaceful means. Violence as a political weapon, however,
came to be advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan
al-Muslimun), formed in 1928, which was fiercely
anti-British and anti-imperialist.
When the Free Officers took power in 1952, the monarchy
was abolished in 1953; the political parties were banned in
the same year and the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954. The
political system was now reshaped according to the Soviet
model: power passed in 1956 to Gamal Abdel Nasser and to a
single permissible mass organization. This was called the
1962 Arab Socialist Union (ASU) and was a strong central
government organization, closely linked to the government
apparatus. Ultimately, however, the Nasser regime rested on
the power of the army and the security service.
In 1976, President Sadat allowed three “platforms” to be
formed by the party's right, center and left within ASU. In
1978, ASU was abolished and its center transformed into a
new government party, the National Democratic Party (NDP;
al-Hizb al-Watani ad-Dimuqrati). The NDP was
ultimately controlled by the president and had many senior
civil servants among its members. Its strength was otherwise
in the countryside. The party controlled the country's state
apparatus and the state-controlled radio and television, and
had better finances than the other parties. It supported
Egypt's opening to the west and peace with Israel.
The left within ASU developed into the National
Progressive Unionist Party (NPUP; at-Tajammu),
which mainly recruited former Nasser supporters, communists
and left-wing intellectuals. NPUP was opposed to Egypt's
peace treaty with Israel. ASU's right became the Socialist
Liberal Party in 1978 (Hizb al-Ahrar al-Ishtirakiyyin).
The Liberals advocated a free trade and supported peace with
Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood was allowed, under Sadat, to
act openly as a counterbalance to the left, and then grew in
strength and influence. The Brotherhood rejected the peace
with Israel and demanded that Islamic law, Sharia, be
introduced in Egypt. The old Wafd was reorganized in 1978 as
the New Wafd Party (Hizb al-Wafd al-Jadid). The new
Wafd members were recruited mainly from the middle class.
During the 1990s, the Islamist opposition, now active
also in underground groups, resorted to increasingly violent
methods. A series of murders and terrorist operations were
answered by the regime with open violence, mass arrests and
executions. A small scale civil war raged, mainly in the
southern parts of the country. Against this violent
background, the Mubarak regime's democratization process
went into reverse. Thus, the 1990 parliamentary elections
were boycotted by all important opposition parties, which
demanded, among other things, that the state of emergency in
the country should be lifted.
All opposition parties took part in the 1995, 2000 and
2005 elections but labeled them as cheating. The days before
the elections, for example, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood
representatives were arrested. In 2005, 88 mandates for the
Muslim Brotherhood came through independent candidates. In
these elections, the NDP government never got less than 69
percent of seats in the parliament. The 2010 election was
even more manipulated and now only 15 representatives of the
opposition and not a single Islamist joined parliament.
The 2005 presidential election took place after a long
period of popular protests against the current political
system, protests which later also included Mubarak's long
hold of power. Mubarak's counterpart was to enforce a
constitutional change that allowed the Egyptian people to
directly elect the head of state for the first time in 5,000
years, and this among more than one candidate. Ten
candidates participated in the 2005 presidential election.
However, the election was boycotted by the left parties, and
the main opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, was not allowed
to stand with any candidate. The election was easily won by
Mubarak, who captured 88.5 percent of the vote. Turnout was
a modest 23 percent.
In 2007, the Mubarak regime replaced the 1981 exception
legislation with major constitutional changes that gave the
president expanded powers in the "fight against terrorism".
The changes were pushed through despite opposition from the
Popular protests against the political system and
eventually also against Mubarak's long hold of power took
place throughout the 00s. The fiery dissatisfaction of the
Egyptian people in January 2011 boiled over to massive
demonstrations against the regime (see further Arab Spring).
Mubarak was forced to resign on February 11, 2011. He was
tried and sentenced in June 2012 to life imprisonment for
failing to prevent the killing of protesters during the 2011
uprising (when 846 people were killed according to official
figures); however, he appealed and was released in 2017.
Many ministers and aides to Mubarak were also sentenced to
many years in prison. The NDP dissolved in April 2011.
However, Mubarak was not overthrown by the Egyptian
people. It was the leading military forces that forced him
to retire. It was also those who, through the "Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces" (SCAF), assumed power after the
fall of Mubarak. Since February 2011, tens of thousands of
civilian Egyptians have been brought before military courts.
Following the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo in
2011, SCAF reintroduced the exception laws. A wave of abuse,
mainly against Coptic targets, hit the country without any
culprits being brought to justice.
In this unstable situation, parliamentary elections were
held in November 2011 - February 2012. The new parliament's
most important task would be to draft a new constitution
before a new presidential election could take place. 50
parties announced their interest in participating in the
election. Winning became the Muslim Brotherhood's newly
formed Freedom and Justice Party (Hizb al-Hurriya wa
al-Adala), which together with a number of small
parties in the electoral co-operation Democratic Alliance
conquered 235 out of 508 seats. But the election's big
surprise was the newly formed extreme Salafist party
al-Nur ('the Light') with its 123 mandates. The
Islamist parties occupied a total of more than 70 percent of
parliamentary seats. The new Wafd Party and the liberal
Egyptian bloc received only 38 and 34 seats, respectively.
Parliament was thus dominated by Islamists, which caused
the opposition - the Christians, the left and the liberals -
to step down from work to draft a new constitution. Finally,
Egypt's highest constitutional court intervened. This, whose
composition remained from the Mubaract era, declared in June
2012 the 2011 parliamentary election for invalid and
dissolved the People's Assembly. The decision was seen by
many as a soft coup by SCAF and the military. Nevertheless,
presidential elections could be held in May-June 2012. Ten
candidates participated in the first round. One and two
became Muhammad Mursi, who represented the Freedom and
Justice Party, and the military council's candidate Ahmad
Shafiq, general and former prime minister. In the second
round, Mursi won a tight victory with 52 percent of the
Although Mursi officially broke with the Muslim
Brotherhood, his connections there quickly became a burden.
The president's staff of advisers were dominated by
conservative Islamists. He also took several initiatives to
expand the powers of the presidential office, resulting in a
power struggle with the military and other high officials in
the state administration. This, in combination with Mursi's
inability to reverse the dismal economic development in
Egypt, quickly thwarted his legitimacy.
On June 30, 2013, large crowds went out into the streets
of Egypt, this time to demand Mursi's departure. After four
days of mounting protests, the military led a coup d'etat
and on July 3, Mursi was dismissed from the presidential
post. As acting President, the President of Egypt's
Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, was appointed. However,
who in reality became the country's most powerful was the
army chief and also Defense Minister Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi.
The protests among the Muslim Brotherhood's supporters
became fierce, and two major protest camps were formed in
Cairo. The new regime responded with violent countermeasures
that cost thousands of people their lives only during the
second half of 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood was stamped and
banned from terrorism and basically all the leaders of the
organization were arrested. Muhammad Mursi was also
imprisoned, as were thousands of other opposites.
However, support for the transitional government and
al-Sisi was strong among many Egyptians who saw the military
as a guarantor of stability and against excessive Islamist
influence. The draft constitutional amendments that were
drafted during the autumn were approved in a referendum in
January 2014; 98 percent of voters supported the proposal,
but as the Muslim Brotherhood called for a boycott, voter
turnout was below 40 percent.
In early 2014, al-Sisi resigned as army chief with the
intention of running for office in the presidential
elections held in May that year. With strong popular support
and without serious challengers, al-Sisi's victory was
almost given in advance and he was elected with 97 percent
of the vote; however, turnout was only 47 percent. The
situation was roughly the same in the 2018 elections, that
is, al-Sisi lacked real opposition after the regime in
various ways assured that only one other, friendly-minded,
candidate is running. In an election that attracted 41
percent of voters, the incumbent president received 97
percent of the vote.
After the 2015 general elections, a majority of the
members was either a party to support al-Sisi, mainly within
the Alliance For Egypt's sake (Fi Hob Misr), or
independent presidential members.
Since al-Sisi came to power, both human rights
organizations and the UN Human Rights Council have
criticized Egypt for the lack of democracy and the rule of
law. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been
sentenced to death following mass trials. Mursi and other
leaders of the Brotherhood have been sentenced to death and
life imprisonment in several different legal cases,
including for spying for foreign powers and for involvement
in a prison riot in 2011.
For a more detailed account of the events in Egypt since
1996, see Annual overviews. Compare the History section .
The current constitution was approved by referendum on
September 11, 1971. Private ownership must be protected, all
citizens must be equal before the law and penalties must
presuppose that crimes and sentences are established. The
judicial system is basically based on two parallel systems
with public and administrative courts respectively. However,
the Supreme Constitutional Court has jurisdiction to decide,
inter alia, cases where a general and an administrative
court has reached results that are contrary to each other.
The highest court in a four-court system for the general
courts is the Cassation Court in Cairo. In 1980, through an
addition to the constitution, it was established that
Islamic law, sharia, is the basis of the country's
law. The death penalty is punished for some serious crimes.
Egypt, like many other Arab countries, experienced
massive popular uprisings and demonstrations in the early
2010s. Decades of frustration during a dictatorship resulted
in protests against poverty, corruption and political
Political and civil rights have been heavily employed for
much of the 2010s, and violent clashes between police and
protesters have been commonplace. Excessive violence by
police and security forces has led to a large number of
civilian deaths. Extrajudicial executions and torture have
The most obvious human rights problems in the country are
the suppression of civil rights, state restrictions on
freedom of expression, press and assembly, and the existence
of military trials against civilians. The right to freedom
of speech, association and assembly was severely restricted
during the 2010s, and especially for persons designated as
followers of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2010–15, the country
rallied from place 127 to place 158 out of 180 countries
surveyed in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.
Torture, police brutality and imprisonment are considered
by domestic and international human rights organizations to
be the most common human rights violations in Egypt. Mass
arrests of protesters, including children, have occurred.
Deaths in custody and detention have been reported.
Other serious problems include disappearances, arbitrary
arrests and impunity for the security forces. Harassment and
discrimination against women and girls is widespread and the
situation is the same for the LGBTQ group.
State condition and leader since 1805
|Viceroy under the Sultan of Istanbul
||Ismail (from 1867 titled kediv)
||Mohammed Naguib (President)
||Old Abdel Nasser (Prime Minister)
||Old Abdel Nasser (President)
||Anwar as-Sadat (President)
||Hosni Mubarak (President)
||Hussein Tantawi (President of Egypt's Governing
Military Council, de facto head of state)
||Muhammad Mursi (President)
||Adli Mansour (acting president)
||Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi
For a more detailed account of the events in Egypt since
1996, see Annual overviews. See also State of affairs and