The government of Egypt consists of a semi-presidential republic, whereby the President of Egypt is de facto both head of state and head of government, and of a system dominated by the National Democratic Party. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government.
Egypt has been a republic since 18 June 1953. Since the declaration of the republic, four Egyptians have served as presidents. The first President to take office was President Mohamed Naguib. The fourth and incumbent president is Mohamed Hosni Mubarak who has been the President of Egypt since October 14 1981, following the assassination of former President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat. Mubarak is currently serving his fifth term in office. He is the leader of the ruling National Democratic Party. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif was sworn in as Prime Minister on 9 July 2004, following the resignation of Atef Ebeid from his office.
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 continues to lack the powers to balance the excessive powers of the President.
People’s Assembly is the principal legislative body. Out of the assembly’s 454 deputies, 444 are directly elected while no more than 10 may be appointed by the President (article 87 of the Constitution). 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 is the 264-member upper house of Parliament created in 1980. Maglis el-shura roughly translates to the ‘Consultative Council’ in English. In the Shura Council 176 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.
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. Moreover, many Egyptians feel their votes are being monitored by poll workers, and could face retribution for their votes. 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.
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).
The judicial branch plays an important role in the political process in Egypt, the branch is given the responsibility to monitor and run the country's parliamentary and presidential elections.
The Court is the highest judicial power in Egypt and it alone undertakes the judicial control in respect of the constitutionality of the laws and regulations and shall undertake the interpretation of the legislative texts in the manner prescribed by law.
The chief judge of the Supreme Court was the head of the Presidential Election Commission that supervised and ran the country's first multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005.
However, President Hosny Mubarak presented a bill to amend 34 articles in the Egyptian constitution. Article 192, the Judicial Supervision article, was included. The amended article doesn't endorse full Judicial supervision (i.e a Judge on every Ballot box), instead Judicial supervision will only be in main Election stations, and they are to be assisted by employees from the Justice department and Ministry of Interior (Home Office).
According to the Egyptian Constitution, political parties are allowed to exist. Religious political parties are not allowed as it would not respect the principle of non-interference of religion in politics and that religion has to remain in the private sphere to respect all beliefs. In addition, political parties supporting militia formations or having an agenda that is contradictory to the constitution and its principles, or threatening the country's stability such as national unity between Muslim Egyptians and Christian Egyptians.
Today, there are 18 political parties in Egypt.
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. These laws sharply circumscribe any non-governmental political activity: street demonstrations, non-approved political organizations, and un-registered financial donations are formally banned. Nonetheless, since 2000, these restrictions have been violated in practice. In 2003, the agenda shifted heavily towards local democratic reforms, opposition to the succession of Gamal Mubarak as president, and rejection of violence by state security forces. Groups involved in the latest wave include PCSPI, the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya), and the Association for Egyptian Mothers.
Substantial peasant activism exists on a variety of issues, especially related to land rights and land reform. A major flash point was the 1997 repeal of Nasser-era land reform policies under pressure for structural adjustment. A pole for this activity is the Land Center for Human Rights.
The Muslim Brotherhood currently constitutes Mubarak's 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 (arguably leading to its recent rise in public support). Trade unions and professional associations are officially sanctioned.
The permanent headquarters for the League of Arab States (The Arab League) is located in Cairo.The Secretary General of the League has traditionally been an Egyptian. Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa is the present Secretary General of the Arab League. The Arab League briefly moved out of Egypt to Tunis in 1978 as a protest at the peace treaty with Israel, but returned in 1989.
Egypt was the first Arab state to establish diplomatic relations with the state of Israel, after the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty at the Camp David Accords. Egypt has a major influence amongst other Arab states, and has historically played an important role as a mediator in resolving disputes between various Arab nations, and in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Most Arab nations still give credence to Egypt playing that role, though its effects are often limited.
Former Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as Secretary General of the United Nations from 1991 to 1996.
A territorial dispute with Sudan over an area known as the Hala'ib Triangle, has meant that diplomatic relations between the two remain strained.
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