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Current Situation in Egypt

What is currently happening in Egypt?

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Current Situation: Egypt’s Messy Transition

Egypt remains locked in a protracted process of political transition after the resignation of the long-serving leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The country is deeply divided between Islamist and secular groups, while the Egyptian military remains the country's chief political broker and decision-maker.

The results of the first democratic elections held in 2011/12, won overwhelmingly by Islamist parties, were nullified, leaving Egypt with no elected state institutions. Egypt’s first democratically elected parliament in decades was dissolved in June 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi won the presidential elections in mid-2012, but he was deposed a year later through a combination of mass anti-government protest and a military coup. This legal vacuum has created a political tug-of-war between the military, the judiciary, and dozens of political parties vying for power.

Political uncertainty and anxiety over the future have generated ongoing political protest, labor strikes, deep mistrust between Islamist and secular parties, and Muslim-Christian tension in some parts of the country. Violence and criminal activities have been on the rise in the poorly-policed Sinai peninsula, where militant Islamist groups stepped up attacks on security forces.

Latest Developments: The Downfall of Muslim Brotherhood

The military has installed an interim government that will lead the process of drafting a new constitution and preparing for fresh elections. Elections are expected in early 2014, but the situation is highly unpredictable. With no constitution and no parliament, there’s no consensus on the basic "rules of the game".

The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned Morsi's overthrow as a coup, and refuses to recognize the new regime. Secular parties have backed the military, and are pressing for a timely transition back to civilian rule, but they are also divided and have no common strategy. The revolutionary youth groups – which had spearheaded the pro-democracy protests since 2011 – worry the generals might use their power to protect the old order and quash the gains of the 2011 uprising.

Who is in Power in Egypt

Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Executive and legislative power is divided between the military and an interim administration hand-picked by the generals after the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi's government in July 2013. In addition, various pressure groups connected to the old Mubarak regime continue to wield considerable influence from the background, trying to preserve their political and business interests.

A new constitution is to be drafted by the end of 2013, followed by fresh elections, but the timetable is highly uncertain. With no consensus on the exact relationship between key state institutions, Egypt is looking at a long struggle for power involving the military and civilian politicians.

Egyptian Opposition

Protesters outside Egypt's Constitutional Court
Getty Images

Despite successive authoritarian governments, Egypt boasts a long tradition of party politics, with left-wing, liberal, and Islamist groups challenging the power of Egypt’s establishment. Mubarak’s fall in early 2011 unleashed a new flurry of political activity, and hundreds of new political parties and civil society groups emerged, representing a wide range of ideological currents.

Secular political parties and ultra-conservative Salafi groups are trying to block the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood, while various pro-democracy activist groups keep pressing for radical change promised in the early days of the anti-Mubarak uprising.

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