Political power in Egypt was concentrated in the office of the president of the republic for more than five decades. Since the military coup in 1952 which brought down the Egypt’s monarchy, all presidents came from the military ranks.
And while ex-president Hosni Mubarak curtailed the army’s overt control over civilian state institutions, he still awarded the armed forces with enormous prestige, generous budget funds, access to a pervasive intelligence apparatus, and lucrative business opportunities, all of which translated into real political power.
The popular uprising in early 2011 and Mubarak’s ouster disrupted this arrangement. Executive and legislative power is currently in the hands of an interim administration, installed by the military after the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, the first democratically elected president after Mubarak.
While most Egyptians supported the army’s intervention against Morsi, many worry the army is actively trying to thwart the transition to a true democracy. The army has been aided by the judiciary, which is believed to be under heavy influence of the remnants of the old regime.
With no constitution in place, the exact division of power between the president, the cabinet, the parliament, and the military, is yet to be decided.
- Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF): Egyptian military’s power rests on a complex web of intelligence networks, profitable business enterprises and exclusive government budgets. The old generation of Egyptian generals was ordered into retirement in August 2012, but the army as an institution will continue playing a key role in Egyptian politics for some time.
Why is Egypt’s Transition Such a Mess?
- President Adly Mansour:The head of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly was appointed by the army as interim president after the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. Adly will give a legitimate cloak to the process of preparing new elections, although it’s not clear whether he will be able to act independently of the powerful military.
- Interim Cabinet: President Adly, backed by the military, rules through an interim cabinet staffed mostly with former officials and technocrats from the Hosni Mubarak era. The executive power of this cabinet is very limited, and under pressure from political parties who want the interim administration to be more representative of Egypt’s political scene.
Informal Power Networks
- The Felool: The most complex group on our list are the remnants of Mubarak’s regime, the so-called felool (meaning remnants in Egyptian Arabic dialect). The felool include senior civil servants, businessmen that made their fortunes under the former regime, officials from Mubarak’s disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP), and members of the security apparatus.
In short, the felool are Egypt’s establishment, a range of pressure groups who fear their economic and political interests will be irreversibly damaged by the unpredictable wave of change that was unleashed by the 2011 uprising. They share deep mistrust toward both the Islamist parties and secular pro-democracy activists, and are counting on the military to preserve as much of the existing social and political order as possible.
Financial resources and personal links with members of the military and security apparatus give the felool considerable informal power, which can be used to prop up politicians that can protect their interests. Ahmed Shafiq, the presidential candidate most closely associated with the former regime, won 48% of the vote in the presidential run-off in June 2012.