Politics of Egypt

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Constitution

The Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt declares Egypt to a ‘democratic and socialist republic’, operating under a ‘multiparty system’ semi-presidential system.

The national government of Egypt is divided into an executive branch, a legislative branch and a judiciary branch. The Constitution grants wide powers to the executive. The President of Egypt heads the executive branch. The President’s powers stem from his ability to appoint the powerful prime minister and one or more Vice-Presidents. However, the President’s choice of the prime minister has to yield and maintain the approval the People’s Assembly (Majilis Al-Sha’ab), the lower house of Parliament.

Egypt is a unitary state, meaning that its subdivisions do not have constitutional status. However, the various legal subdivisions, the governorates (Muhafazat), cities (Modon), and counties (Kofour), have various attributions.

Executive branch

President of the Republic

In February 2005, President Mubarak proposed an amendment to article 76 of the constitution that would allow, for the first time, multi-candidate presidential elections. A referendum was held on May 25 2005, as required by the constitution, and the amendment was approved (reportedly, with a majority of over 82% support). However, the terms of the newly adopted amendment make it very difficult, if not impossible, for candidates other than those of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, which holds about 90% of parliament seats, to run for the elections. The hurdles include requiring aspiring presidential candidates to first secure the support of 250 elected officials (including 140 local council members, 65 People's Assembly deputies, and 25 members of the Shura Council), and requiring that the parties they represent to have been in existence for at least five years. In the event, the referendum was boycotted by some of Egypt's leading opposition parties, including the Wafd.

Under the 1980 amendments of the Egyptian Constitution, the President is elected for six years. As of 2005, President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has been the President of the Republic since 14 October 1981 and is currently serving his last year of his fourth term. President Mubarak was re-elected in 1987, 1993, and 1999, making him the longest serving Egyptian President in the history of the Republic.

The President of Republic is elected indirectly in a two-stage system unique to Egypt. The People’s Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, nominates one of a number of candidates for presidency. The presidential candidate requires at least a two-thirds majority in the People’s Assembly in order to proceed to the second stage of the elections. The presidential candidate is voted on in a yes-or-no binding public referendum. On achieving a simple majority in the public referendum, the presidential candidate is sworn in as President. However, if the candidate is fails to obtain the required majority, the People’s Assembly nominates a new candidate for presidency, thus returning to the first stage of elections. The President may be re-elected multiple times with no limitation on the number of terms allowed to be served.

The Egyptian system for presidential election is regarded by many as not being fully democratic due to the fact that it is the People’s Assembly and not the populace itself, who retains the upper-hand in choosing the Chief of State. In addition, it allows for whatever party or coalition controlling the People’s Assembly to put forward their candidate as the presidential candidate. This greatly explains how in most of the 1980s and 1990s the National Democratic Party has managed to maintain the office of President and a parliamentary majority.

The President names the prime minister and may preside over the cabinet. President Mubarak holds a monthly meeting with the cabinet on which he presides. In addition, the President is the Supreme Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The President concludes treaties and may submit questions to national referenda. The President also possesses the constitutional power to dissolve the People’s Assembly, however, no President has ever done so. In certain emergencies, the President may assume special, comprehensive powers.

Under the system created by the 1980 constitutional amendments, the President is the pre-eminent executive figure, who names the Prime Minister. When the President's political party or supporters control parliament, the President is in effect the ‘dominant’ player in executive action, choosing whoever he wishes for government, and having it follow ‘his’ political agenda. However, when the President's political opponents control parliament, the President's dominance can be severely limited, as he must choose a prime minister and cabinet reflecting the majority in parliament. When parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum control parliament and the presidency, the power-sharing arrangement is known as cohabitation. By convention, the President controls foreign-affairs and defence related issues of the state, while the Prime Minister manages the day-to-day affairs including the economy.

In the late 1970s Egypt had several cohabitation governments which proved to be unstable, due to the struggle arising between the President and the Prime Minister. However, since 1981, the National Democratic Party has maintained a majority in the People’s Assembly and supplied the Egyptian President.

The Government/Cabinet (Al-Hokouma Al-Misreya)

The government, or the cabinet, is headed by the Prime Minister of Egypt. It has at its disposal the civil service the government agencies. The cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, is responsible only to Parliament, specifically the People’s Assembly. The People’s Assembly may pass a motion of censure, forcing the resignation of the cabinet. Ministers have to answer questions from Members of Parliament, both written and oral; this is known as Inquiries to the Government Talebat Ihata. In addition, ministers attend meetings of the two houses of Parliament when laws pertaining to their areas of responsibility are being discussed.

Traditionally, the cabinet comprises, in decreasing rank:

  • The Prime Minister
  • Ministers
  • Ministers of State, described as ‘junior ministers’, are assigned specific responsibilities or agencies. The portfolios of ministers of state are considerably more transient, as positions may be created and dissolved to suit specific short-term government priorities or the specific qualifications of candidates without alterations to the departmental structure, e.g. the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs.
  • Ministers without portfolio, ministers who do not head specific departments and occasionally attend cabinet meetings, e.g. Minister without portfolio Omar Suleiman, the current Chief of the Egyptian Intelligence Services.
  • Chairmen of Departments, who head certain important departments that do not fall under the jurisdiction of any of the ministers and answer directly to the Prime Minister, e.g. The Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority.
  • Ministers-Delegate, who assist ministers in areas of their duties and rarely attend cabinet meeting

The number of ministries and the splitting of responsibilities and administrations between them vary from government to government, but some positions tend to stay the same, even though the exact title of the position may vary.

The government has a leading role in shaping the agenda of the houses of Parliament. It may propose laws to Parliament, as well as amendments during parliamentary meetings. It may make use of some procedures to speed up parliamentary deliberations.

As of 9 July 2004, the Prime Minister is Dr. Ahmed Nazif.

Legislative branch

Parliament meets for one nine-month session each year: under special circumstances the President of the Republic can call an additional session. Even though the powers of the Parliament have increased since the 1980 Amendments of the Constitution, the Parliament remains to lack the powers to balance the excessive powers of the President.

The People’s Assembly (Majilis Al-Sha’ab)

The People’s Assembly is the principal legislative body. Out of the assembly’s 454 deputies, 444 are directly elected while 10 are appointed by the President. The Constitution reserves fifty percent of the assembly seats for ‘workers and peasants’. The assembly sits for a five-year term but can be dissolved earlier by the President. All seats are voted on in each election. Four hundred seats are voted on using proportional representation while the remaining forty-four are elected in local majority votes.

The People’s Assembly may cause the resignation of the executive cabinet by voting a motion of censure. For this reason, the Prime Minister and his cabinet are necessarily from the dominant party or coalition in the assembly. In the case of a president and assembly from opposing parties, this leads to the situation known as cohabitation. While motions of censure are periodically proposed by the opposition following government actions that it deems highly inappropriate, they are purely rhetorical; party discipline ensures that, throughout a parliamentary term, the government is never overthrown by the assembly.

The Shura Council (Majilis Al-Shura)

The Shura Council is the 264-member upper house of Parliament created in 1980. The Shura Council roughly translates to the ‘Consultative Council’ in English. In the Shura Council 174 members are directly elected and 88 members are appointed by the President of the Republic for six-year terms. One half of the Shura Council is renewed every three years.

The Shura Council's legislative powers are limited. On most matters of legislation, the People’s Assembly retains the last word in the event of a disagreement between the two houses.

Parliamentary elections

There currently exist eighteen recognized political parties from across the political spectrum. The formation of political parties based on religion is prohibited by the Constitution. The official opposition and political pressure groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, are active in Egypt and make their views public. They are represented at various levels in the political system. However, power is concentrated in the hands of the President of the Republic and the National Democratic Party which retains a super-majority in the People's Assembly.

The November 2000 Parliamentary Elections are generally regarded to have been more transparent and better executed than past elections. This is due to the new Law put into force establishing universal judicial monitoring of polling stations. On the other hand, opposition parties continue to lodge credible complaints about electoral manipulation by the government. There are significant restrictions on the political process and freedom of expression for non-governmental organizations, including professional syndicates and organizations promoting respect for human rights which have been greatly loosened up in the past five years.

Below the national level, authority is exercised by and through governors and mayors appointed by the central government and by popularly elected local councils.

Judicial branch

The Egyptian judicial system is based on European, primarily French, legal concepts and methods. Under the several governments during the presidency of Mubarak, the courts have demonstrated increasing independence, and the principles of due process and judicial review have gained greater respect. The legal code is derived largely from the Napoleonic Code. Marriage and personal status are primarily based on the religious law of the individual concerned. Thus, there are three forms of Family Law in Egypt, Islamic, Christian, and secular (based on the French Family Laws).

CIA Facts and Statistics

Country name:


conventional long form: Arab Republic of Egypt
conventional short form: Egypt
local long form: Jumhuriyat Misr al-Arabiyah (Arabic: جمهوريّة مصر العربيّة)
local short form: Misr (Arabic: مصر)
former: United Arab Republic (with Syria)

Data code:

EG

Government type:

republic

Capital:

Cairo (Arabic: القاهرة, Romanization: Al-Qāhira(t))

Administrative divisions:

26 governorates (muhafazat; singular – muhafazah):

Ad Daqahliyah, Al Bahr al Ahmar, Al Buhayrah, Al Fayyum, Al Gharbiyah, Al Iskandariyah, Al Isma'iliyah, Al Jizah, Al Minufiyah, Al Minya, Al Qahirah, Al Qalyubiyah, Al Wadi al Jadid, Ash Sharqiyah, As Suways, Aswan, Asyut, Bani Suwayf, Bur Sa'id, Dumyat, Janub Sina', Kafr ash Shaykh, Matruh, Qina, Shamal Sina', Suhaj.

Independence:

28 February 1922 (from UK)

National holiday:

Anniversary of the Revolution, 23 July (1952)

Constitution:

11 September 1971

Legal system:

Based on English common law, Islamic law, and Napoleonic codes; judicial review by Supreme Court and Council of State (oversees validity of administrative decisions); accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage:

18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch:


chief of state: President Mohammed Hosni MUBARAK (حسني مبارك محمد) (since 14 October 1981)
head of government: Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif (since July 2004)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president nominated by the People's Assembly for a six-year term, the nomination must then be validated by a national, popular referendum; national referendum last held 26 September 1999 (next to be held NA October 2005); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: national referendum validated President MUBARAK's nomination by the People's Assembly to a fourth term

Legislative branch:

bicameral system consists of the People's Assembly or Majlis al-Sha'b (454 seats; 444 elected by popular vote, 10 appointed by the president; members serve five-year terms) and the Advisory Council or Majlis al-Shura - which functions only in a consultative role (264 seats; 176 elected by popular vote, 88 appointed by the president; members serve NA-year terms)
elections: People's Assembly - last held 29 November 1995 (next to be held NA November 2000); Advisory Council - last held 7 June 1995 (next to be held NA)
election results: People's Assembly - percent of vote by party - NDP 72%, independents 25%, opposition 3%; seats by party - NDP 317, independents 114, NWP 6, NPUG 5, Nasserist Arab Democratic Party 1, LSP 1; Advisory Council - percent of vote by party - NDP 99%, independents 1%; seats by party - NA

Judicial branch:

Supreme Constitutional Court

Political parties and leaders:

Democratic Unionist Party Mohammed 'Abd-al-Mun'im TURK; Green Party Kamal KIRAH; Misr al-Fatah Party (Young Egypt Party) leader NA; Nasserist Arab Democratic Party Dia' al-din DAWUD; National Democratic Party or NDP President Mohammed Hosni MUBARAK, leader - governing party; National Progressive Unionist Grouping or NPUG Khalid MUHI AL-DIN; New Wafd Party or NWP Fu'ad SIRAJ AL-DIN; Social Justice Party Muhammad 'ABDAL-'AL; Socialist Labor Party or SLP Ibrahim SHUKRI; Socialist Liberal Party or LSP Mustafa Kamal MURAD; Umma Party Ahmad al-SABAHI


note: formation of political parties must be approved by government

Political pressure groups and leaders:

Despite a constitutional ban against religious-based parties, the technically illegal Muslim Brotherhood constitutes Mubarak's potentially most significant political opposition; Mubarak tolerated limited political activity by the Brotherhood for his first two terms, but has moved more aggressively in the past six years to block its influence; trade unions and professional associations are officially sanctioned. Egyptians have been living under emergency law since 1967, except for an 18-month break in 1980. Emergency laws have been continuously extended every three years since 1981.

Foreign Minister

Ahmad Abu El Gheet

International organization participation:

ABEDA, ACC, ACCT (associate), AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, BSEC (observer), CAEU, EBRD, ECA, ESCWA, FAO, G-15, G-19, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, MONUC, NAM, OAPEC, OAS(observer), OAU, OIC, OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNTAET, UPU, WCO,WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:


chief of mission: Ambassador Nabil FAHMY
chancery: 3521 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 895-5400
FAX: [1] (202) 244-4319, 5131
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Houston, New York City, and San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US:


chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel C. KURTZER
embassy: (North Gate) 8, Kamel El-Din Salah Street, Garden City, Cairo
mailing address: Unit 64900, APO AE 09839-4900
telephone: [20] (2) 3557371
FAX: [20] (2) 3573200

Flag description:

See: Flag of Egypt

It consists of three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black with the national emblem (a shield superimposed on a golden eagle facing the hoist side above a scroll bearing the name of the country in Arabic) centered in the white band; similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band; also similar to the flag of Syria, which has two green stars, and to the flag of Iraq, which has three green stars (plus an Arabic inscription) in a horizontal line centered in the white band

See also : Egypt
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