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 Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi won the June 2012 presidential elections, but the military retains considerable power.
Egypt’s first democratically elected parliament in decades was dissolved in June 2012, leaving the country with no parliament and no constitution. This legal vacuum has created a political tug-of-war between the civilian president and the military, amidst questions over the impartiality of Egypt’s judiciary.
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: Constitutional Crisisp>In late 2012 Egypt descended into a deep political crisis, pitting the Islamist supporters of President Mohammed Morsi against the secular opposition and the Coptic Christian minority. An attempt by Morsi to assume special presidential powers until the passing of the new constitution triggered a wave of violent protest, as the opposition accused Morsi of working to install an Islamist dictatorship.
The Islamist-secular tension escalated when an Islamist-dominated panel approved a controversial draft on the country's new constitution, which stipulated that Muslims clerics should have a say in the legislative process. The draft was submitted to a referendum on December 15, after three weeks of political violence.
Executive and legislative power is divided between an elected president and an interim governing body controlled by the military. President Mohammed Morsi has been trying to wrest political power away from the military, but his own authority is still subject to a new constitutional agreement that will define the power of the presidency.
Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party controls the presidency and is likely to do well in the next legislative elections. However, various pressure groups connected to the old regime continue to wield considerable influence from the background. With no constitution to define the exact relationship between key state institutions, Egypt is looking at a long struggle for power involving the military and civilian politicians.
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.Go to Current Situation in the Middle East