Egypt’s post-2011 political transition

Sent On: 
Fri, 2020-05-01
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Madeleine Hall, an intern from the United States and incoming graduate student in Georgetown University’s Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program, worked on a paper titled “Political and Legal Changes in Transitional Egypt: 2011-2020.” Madeleine began interning with us in September 2019, around the time when the Dutch SGP Party (conservative Christian) inquired about the role of Christians in Egyptian politics. Throughout the country’s history, Egypt’s Christian population has been active in Egyptian politics. What role did Egyptian Christians play after the Egyptian revolution of January 25, 2011?


Demonstrators at Tahrir square celebrating the fall of President Husni Mubarak in February 2011, initiating a series of changes in Egypt. Photo wikipedia.


Madeleine’s paper begins by reviewing Egypt’s post-2011 transition between Hosni Mubarak’s [Ḥusnī Mubārak] overthrow and the summer of 2013 when Mohamed Morsi [Muḥammad Mursī] was ousted. This period includes the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections, the 2012 presidential elections, and unrest and sectarian violence.


Madeleine used both English and Arabic sources to evaluate changes between 2011 and 2020. She compares the 2012 constitution with the 2014 document and evaluates the laws governing the election of Egypt’s new unicameral legislature in 2015. While better guarantees were offered in 2015 regarding women and religious minorities’ equal representation in the legislature, she argues that references to freedom of assembly and expression in the 2014 Constitution were undermined by new restrictions on political life and civil society, with fundamental rights having been weakened through the 2013 protest law, the 2015 anti-terrorism law, amendments to the Penal code, and under an ongoing state of emergency used to justify the arrest of hundreds of non-violent regime critics, journalists, and human rights activists. Moreover, the new election law weakened political parties in favor of independents.


These factors resulted in the dominance of pro-government forces in parliament and laid the groundwork for the emergence of new political parties that have expressed explicit support for the state and the armed forces. Parliament approved the 2015 anti-terrorism law, and new amendments to the law in 2020 expanded the state’s definition of terrorist entities. Egypt’s Parliament also approved in April 2019 amendments to the 2014 constitution — later passed in a national referendum that same month — which sought to extend the current president’s term in office, among other changes, with politicians pressured to abandon public criticism of the regime in the wake of arrests and even violence targeting members of opposition parties part of the Democratic Alliance and later the Civil Democratic Movement.


The final section of this paper discusses the state of press freedom and censorship in Egypt, documents the arrest and detention of activists, lawyers, politicians, and journalists, and details the way in which remand detention and “rotation” has been used to keep regime critics behind bars.


Madeleine is obviously critical of the developments after 2011, with Egypt going from a period of unrest and violence to a country defined by increasing restrictions on press freedom and political life for the sake of stability. Many political activists and regime critics are indeed not engaged in political violence, but in a country with over 30% of the population living below the poverty line and another 50% not living far from this line, the risk of political activism transitioning to violence or unrest is always present. The government is strongly focused on economic development, a task made more difficult amid the unfolding coronavirus crisis. This focus on bolstering the economy is ultimately expected to benefit the poorer sections of the population. Although development requires stability, ongoing restrictions have come with a heavy price, as we see in Madeleine’s paper.


The initial question for this paper was centered on the role of Christians in Egyptian politics. During the time Madeleine worked on this paper, she expanded the scope of her research to include all Egyptians, since these political developments do not only concern Christians in Egypt.


To read this paper please click here.



May 1, 2020


Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-Chief Arab-West Report