Egypt’s Culture and Political System
Egypt’s Culture and Political System
The Egyptian culture is considered one of the oldest cultures in human history. Surprisingly, it almost has some of gender equality except that it needs more to consider, in order achieving the third Millennium Development Goal, which talks of achieving gender equity/equality and women empowerment by 2015. I would recommend that the Egyptian constitution considers enacting and/or passing several legislations in favor of women and as well give recognition to the informal market sector, where bulks of the women are making meaningful contribution to the economy. I would also recommend that this ancient nation and culture acknowledges the home, where the men considerably have all the major decision making powers. I am of the conviction that women make sound and major decisions as well and can provide better and transformation ideas, realizing the remarkably undeniable work of the women of Liberia during the civil war.
I believe that if our generation begins to identify the errors of past generations, relative to gender-related issues, and if we address those issues in more formal ways by beginning to give women their rightful places in society; ensuring that opportunities and privileges are equally and equitably distributed, our world can be the most enjoyable place even for generations unborn. In an effort to do this, we must begin with an identification of the problems as stated above, discuss them thoroughly as a way of enabling us to craft or design ideas that would amicably resolve them for the better of our general world, beginning with the Egyptian society. In Egypt the political system of policies and regulations of its political structure is based on its fundamental laws and practices. Most of which shows how the Egyptian government positions its power on the state and the society it governs. Egypt started out being a Republic adopting a democratic system. This system defines the way in which it uses its public authority. There are basically six parts to this system. The first is the constitutional system.
There was a constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt in 1971 that was used but then had a written amendment to it in 1980. The actual amendment had commonality in the English Common Law which came from the Napoleonic Code. It simply explains that Egypt declares it’s self as an Arab Republic with a democratic system. The second part is called the Executive Branch. The president is called the Head of State. The head of state is selected by a minimum one-third majority of the Majlis ash-Sha’ab, which is the “People’s Assembly. The People’s Assembly must approve by a minimum of two-thirds and have to be elected by a majority referendum. The election term is for six years with the possibility for re-election with conditional reasons for return. Putting into to play the general state policy is made up and supervised by the Head of State. He also rules the Armed Force. The last elected president of the republic was Mohammed Hosni Mubarak.
The supreme executive and administrative organ of the State is the government; they are comprised of the Council of Ministers. This is ruled by the Prime Minister and he is the overseer of the work of the government. The highest part of the government is the Executive and administrative part of the Egyptian Republic is the Council of Ministers. The Ministers are together responsible for the policy and procedure of the State before the People’s Assembly, every Minister is responsible for the performance of his Ministry and is held to accountability to do so. The Parliament has great power as well. They have the power to withdraw confidence from the Cabinet or from any Cabinet member and leave them powerless. The fourth part of this system is the Legislative Branch. This branch of the Egyptian Parliament is a reflection in character and consists of the People’s Assembly, or Majlis El-Shaab and the Advisory Council or Majlis El-Shourah.
“The People’s Assembly is the legislative branch of the State consisting of 444 directly elected members and 10 members appointed by the President, who serve for a term of five years. It has the power to approve the general policy, new laws, the budget and the development plans of the government. It also has the authority to undertake investigations and to levy taxes, besides appointing the Presidential candidate and passing a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet. The Advisory Council with 140 members, out of which 70 members are nominated by the President, is Egypt’s consultative council. It offers advices and consultation and proposes to the Assembly new laws and regulations” (Haas, F. 2008). The fifth part of the system is the Judicial Branch. The Judicial branch System was brought into the country introduced into the country in 1854 and predicated on the English common law, Islamic law, and Napoleonic codes system to go through for four categories of courts of justice. Almost like the United States the highest judicial body is the Supreme Constitutional Court, the Court of Cessation.
There are seven courts of Appeal in the various systems, and the Summary Tribunals in the districts are the principal court system in Egypt. It guarantees the independence of the judicial system. The fifth system is the Party of Power. This system is ruled on a multi-party system. “The Law 40 of 1977 regulates the development of political parties in Egypt. Though there is currently 17 active political parties representing various stands across the political spectrum, the law prohibits the creation of religious-based political parties in the state. Presently the National Democratic Party holds the majority of seats in the People’s Assembly” (History. 2012). The sixth system is the local government. This is headed by a Governor who is appointed by the President which is very different as to how they are selected in the US. “Egypt is administratively divided into 26 Governorates. Within their districts, local government units establish and run all public utilities, provide services and designate industrial areas. Working closely at various levels with local government is the Local Popular Councils.
The basics: Egypt is a large, mostly Arab, mostly Muslim country. At around 80 million people, it has the largest population in the Middle East and the third-largest in Africa. Most of Egypt is in North Africa, although the part of the country that borders Israel, the Sinai Peninsula, is in Asia. Its other neighbors are Sudan to the South, Libya to the West, and Saudi Arabia across the Gulf of Aqaba to the East. It has been was ruled by Hosni Mubarak since from 1981 until February 11th”( Pew Research Center 2011, November 17). As to what is going on today in Egypt. There has been fierce protest in Egypt that has been promoted by the recent protests in which led to the fall of the Tunisian government as well as getting rid of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The Egyptians have gathered momentum to get support of other protesters across the Arab world in Algeria, notably in protesting their autocratic governments, high levels of corruption, and grinding poverty.
This is a big reason Why Egyptians unhappy and disturbed about the government. They feel they have no basic freedom than Tunisians. “Egypt is ranked 138th of 167 countries on The Economist’s Democracy index, a widely accepted measure of political freedom. That ranking puts Egypt just seven spots ahead of Tunisia. And Egyptians are significantly poorer than their cousins to the west” (Mislan, D. 2012). How did this all start? These protests started with the protests in Tunisia. Just like their Tunisian counterparts, “Egyptian protesters have pointed to a specific incident as inspiration for the unrest. Many have cited the June 2010 beating death of Khaled Said, allegedly at the hands of police, as motivation for their rage. But it’s also clear that the issues here are larger” (Prager, D. 2012). This seems to be complicated for the US more than Tunisia was. The “Tunisian regime was a key ally for the US in the fight against Al Qaeda. But the US government’s ties to Tunisia’s Ben Ali pale in comparison to American ties to Egypt.
Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank, explains: Predictions that a Tunisia-like uprising will soon topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are premature the Egyptian regime, with its well-paid military, is likely to be more unified and more ruthless than its Tunisian counterparts were. The U.S. is the primary benefactor of the Egyptian regime, which, in turn, has reliably supported American regional priorities. After Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel, Egypt is the largest recipient of U.S. assistance, including $1.3 billion in annual military aid. In other words, if the army ever decides to shoot into a crowd of unarmed protestors, it will be shooting with hardware provided by the United States. As Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations points out, the Egyptian military is “not there to project power, but to protect the regime (History. 2012)”.
There was a movement started in Egypt called the Egyptian Movement for Change (EMC). It also has another name called, Kefaya which in English means “Enough”. This came about in 2004. Almost immediately its importance to Egyptian political life was recognized, though not understood. Both Egyptian and Western analysts have mischaracterized the movement. Interpretations have been too narrow, focusing on specific details and ignoring the movement’s broad vision, or too broad, mistaking Kefaya for a generic social movement in the Western mode. All such approaches fail to appreciate Kefaya’s real contribution. This essay argues that Kefaya’s significance lies in its transformative potential as a broad political force that is uniquely suited to the needs of the moment in Egypt. It is at once a cross-ideological force that has the potential, in the long run, of creating a new mainstream and a movement of a new kind that is creating a distinctive and promising form of politics for Egypt.
Egypt’s political system has reached a dead end in the early twenty-first century. The opposition political parties are locked in their headquarters, unable to communicate with the public. Virtually acquiescing to the siege of an arsenal of restrictive laws, these political parties have for years suffered from an increasingly diminishing membership, a lack of operational funds, and internecine internal feuds. The “illegality” of the Muslim Brothers (MB) has paradoxically liberated that organization from restrictions that come with governmental licensing. However, the ideology, posture, secrecy, and political tactics of the grassroots-based MB engender the mistrust of many political forces, including some Islamists. At the same time, the secularist-Islamist polarization hinders the possibility of reaching any meaningful consensus on critical issues.
This blockage is not lost on the regime, the clear beneficiary of such divisions among its adversaries, and it does not augur well for the future of the brothers in a lead role in shaping Egyptian political life. Amid this political disarray, a new generation of Egyptians holds the promise for transforming politics in Egypt. They have found a home and an instrument in Kefaya and in the process have invented a new form of politics. Their innovations are historically grounded on the specifics of Egypt’s political life in recent decades. Unique Egyptian circumstances have shaped their experiences, aspirations, and vision for the future. With the seething political discontent on the one hand and the ideologically based mistrust and mutual exclusion among the political forces on the other, Egypt needs today, more than ever, a new form of politics that pulls together diverse ideas from across the political spectrum to forge a new national project.
For more than a decade, a group of activists and intellectuals have interacted across ideological lines to reach a common ground. Kefaya emerged as one manifestation of these efforts and as an important illustration of the possibilities of this new politics. While such collaborative work across ideological lines is not unique in democratic experiences around the world, Kefaya represents the first successful effort of that sort in modern Egyptian politics. This essay, based on primary sources, including open-ended interviews, statements, newspaper articles, and reports, as well as unpublished documents, is composed of three main parts. The first part explains in more detail the reasons why Kefaya has been widely mischaracterized; the second illustrates why and how Kefaya represents a new force with the potential of creating a new mainstream; and the third explores the new politics invented by Kefaya.
There has been Misunderstanding Kefaya Since its early days, there have been various critical interpretations of Kefaya by politicians and intellectuals alike, at times citing deficiencies in the movement’s profile, actions, and approach, while at other times dismissing the movement outright as being a “foreign puppet” or the pastime of “a bunch of kids.” The most serious and widely noted critique of Kefaya is that it has been essentially a mere protest movement, targeting President Mubarak personally, without putting forward an alternative candidate or articulating a constructive vision for political transformation. The critique along these lines has gained more momentum since the 2005 presidential election. Because Kefaya’s main slogan expressed the rejection of a fifth term for Mubarak as well as the succession of his son, the argument goes that Kefaya lost its raison d’etre with the end of the election.
“Except for rejecting the election results, symbolized by the slogan of ‘Batel’, nothing new was produced.” When Kefaya played a leading role in the formation of the National Front for Change on the eve of the subsequent parliamentary elections, it was criticized as passing the torch to the old opposition parties, the very same entities whose inaction it has been formed to face. (Haas, F. 2008)”.The EMC had been “dragged into sitting together with the leaders of the tamed opposition, instead of putting forward a demand for changing the electoral system.” While critics clearly question Kefaya’s contribution to Egyptian politics, even the more positive assessments of the EMC mischaracterize it. For example, the American Left sees Kefaya as the beginning of “the process of rebuilding an Egyptian Left crushed by decades of police oppression” and a reverse of its “political marginalization caused by the rise of political Islam (Haas, F. 2008)”.
Some Egyptian analysts as well characterize Kefaya as a “secular” protest movement and thereby implicitly expect its role to be the containment of the Islamists. Kefaya has been so widely misunderstood in the West as well as among the Western-educated elite in Egypt because of the reliance on Western social scientific classifications, notably the social movement literature, to make sense of a phenomenon emerging from the very different Egyptian context. This shortcoming is compounded by looking at Kefaya with an ideologically selective eye. While Kefaya has indeed demonstrated several of the characteristics highlighted in the literature on new social movements, it is neither single issue oriented nor concerned with identity two of the most important features of new social movements.
Shoehorning Kefaya into a category derived from the experience of postindustrial societies obscures more than it illuminates. Nevertheless, the concept of the new social movement comes closest to capturing certain features of Kefaya. The movement is one of dissent, aiming in a constant and persistent endeavor toward the transformation of Egypt.4 It is a loose network of small groupings around the country. Like social movements, it aims at generating public attention and has emerged from a realization of the perils involved in conventional party politics in Egypt, marked by debilitating restrictions and dilemmas. In other words, Kefaya emerges out of realization that the institutional channels are neither neutral nor amenable to the demands for change. However, unlike conventional social movements and because of the specific necessities of the Egyptian context, Kefaya is not focused on a single issue.
The same, incidentally, is true of the Islamic movement whose platform also embraces a range of issues. In addition to the breadth of the issues addressed by Kefaya, the movement is ideologically diverse. In this way, it differs from the Islamic movement. While the latter has a concrete ideology shaping its project, Kefaya goes beyond any single ideology to be the only movement in contemporary Egypt that emerged out of serious political interactions across ideological lines. Approaching Kefaya through the prism of the social movement literature, with its American scholarship emphasis on resource mobilization and political processes, blinds analysis to this distinctive feature, which is in fact one of the most important contributions of Kefaya to Egypt’s political life. There is concern about the momentum behind Egypt’s emergency law, and what it means for progress both the incredible progress that has already been made and the equally incredible progress that has yet to be made. There is concern about the treatment and status of the Copts and other members of the Christian Egyptian minority.
There is concern about the security of the Egyptian–Israeli border and about relations between the two countries in general. There is concern that the progress that has been made thus far could actually lead to a reversal of Egypt’s progress, should the freedom to elect lead to a government that constricts the freedom of the Egyptian people even more than we have seen over the past 30 years And the list could go on. Indeed, there is no shortage of things about which to worry. There is a fine line between worrying and believing. Similarly, there is a fine line between two, seemingly contradictory, truths: Some degree of discontent with our present circumstances is healthy and necessary, because discontent fuels progress; at the same time, being happy requires that we make a point of being happy wherever we are. There is a fine and difficult line between making the best of our current reality and not giving up.
It is necessary to think through all possible outcomes, including the undesirable and even the remote ones. Both worrying and believing are the result of thinking. Worry and anxiety result from focusing on undesirable outcomes no matter how probable or improbable. Belief, on the other hand, is the result of focusing on the best possible outcomes again, no matter how probable or improbable. Whereas worrying fuels panic and skepticism, believing fuels faith and hope. Positive action rarely results from the chaos, fear, or feelings of scarcity that often accompany worry. Faith and hope lead to trust and courage; and trust and courage lead to positive, prosaically action.
So, yes, there does seem to be a great deal to worry about right now. Even still, if there’s even the remotest possibility that believing instead of worrying will lead to continued progress, and then it seems to me that believing is what we have to do. Positive Psychology has been described by Martin Seligman and others as the science of what makes life worth living; of what is working for individuals, families, communities, and society more broadly. The Positive Psychology experiment with which we are now charged is to, together, choose belief over worry. At least between now and Egypt’s presidential election, let us together make a conscious, deliberate decision to focus on what is working and how it can lead to the best possible future for Egypt and for the world as a whole.
Mislan, D. (2012). Cross Cultural Perspectives. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Haas, F. (2008). German Science and Black Racism–Roots of the Nazi Holocaust. FASEB Journal, 22(2), 332-337.
History. (2012). Germany Country Review, 7-14.
Ninkovich, F. (2001). The United States and Imperialism. Wiley-Blackwell. Pew Research Center. (2011, November 17). The American-Western European Values Gap. Retrieved fromhttp://www.pewglobal.org/2011/11/17/the-american-western-european-values-gap/ Prager, D. (2012). Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. HarperCollins.