Last Update: 10.11.2015
Source: The World Factbook
Egypt is bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan. Egypt's bordering countries are the Gaza Strip, Libya, Israel and Sudan.
Usually, Egypt is experiencing dry summers with moderate winters. The country consists to large parts of desert. Agricultural land is being lost to urbanization, windblown sands and desertification. As natural resources Egypt holds petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, rare earth elements and zinc.
The Nile is the only perennial water source. That is one reason why there are only very few natural freshwater resources. A rapid population growth is moreover threatening natural resources and might lead to an overstraining of the Nile. Further, oil pollution is threatening coral reefs, beaches as well as marine habitats. Water pollution results further from agricultural pesticides, raw sewage and industrial effluents.
Egypt under Hosni Mubarak
Egypt under Hosni Mubarak was a classic case of an authoritarian regime. Mubarak became President in 1981 and established a strong authoritarian regime. With legal and extra-legal tools the government heavily suppressed the media and opposition parties and thereby Mubaraks party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), dominated the political life.
During the early years of the Mubarak regime, Egypt was suffering from economic inefficiencies and economic crises. During the Nasser era, the government tried to establish a welfare state with a large public sector. Even though economic growth was achieved, huge population growth rates and a heavily state-controlled economy prohibited foreign investments. Mubarak realized that the economic situation could only improve with a privatization of the economy and foreign investments. In 1990, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was willing to help Egypt to overcome the economic inefficiencies under the scope of an Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Plan. The help was however tied to several laws that should privatize the economy. In 2000, many former state-controlled firms were privatized, yet the state often remained the largest stakeholder. Moreover, important parts of the public sector, the Suez Canal, the national oil company, social and health insurances and the General Authority for Supply were still state-controlled.
In authoritarian regimes it is common that a mass party is established that seeks an all-encompassing power. This is also true for Egypt under Mubarak. The NDP ensured that it gained a majority of votes during the elections, by banning the largest and best-organized opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood and by manipulating elections. Electoral manipulations were one reason that led to the collapse of the Mubarak regime.
Another typical aspect of an authoritarian regime is that it allows political parties, or interest groups to form, but keeps them under tight control. Since 2007, Egyptian citizens were indeed allowed to form political parties, but no party was allowed to be based on religion, gender or ethnic origin. Next to the restriction of opposition parties, the press was heavily restricted as the largest newspapers were state controlled and Mubarak even appointed the editors of the newspapers. Further, the academic freedom was heavily restricted under Mubarak. University officials were appointed by the regime and if students protested against the state, they were often arrested. Even religious staff in mosques had to be appointed by the government.
As a result of the suppressive and corrupt regime, several protests broke out in Egypt between 2006 and 2011. Often, these protests were organized by a movement called Kifaya (Enough!), which stated that Egyptians have had enough of the Mubarak regime. The emergency law that was established under Mubarak however permitted arrest for innocuous acts such as insulting the president and so many protestors were arrested without having a trial. This might have also been a result thereof that the judiciary was not acting independent from the government, as the Justice Ministry held an extensive influence over important decision within the court.
People and Society
Currently, 83.688.164 persons are living in Egypt. 99.6% of the population is Egyptian and 0.4% stem from other nationalities. Arabic is the official language, though English and French are widely understood by educated classes. The major cities are Cairo, which is also the capital, with approximately 10.902 million inhabitants and Alexandria with approximately 4.387 million inhabitants.
The majority of the Egyptian society (90%) are Muslims and mostly Sunni. Another 9% are Coptic Christians and 1% Christians. Of the Egyptian society 32.7% are 0-14 years old, followed by 62.8% of 15-64 years old and 4.5% of 65 years and older. In July 2012, the birth rate was 24.22 births/1,000 population whereas the death rate was 4.8 deaths/1,000 population.
Throughout the Middle East, Egypt has probably the best educational system. 3.8% of Egypt's GDP goes into educational expenditures. The general educational system for 4-14 years old consists of two years in Kindergarten, six years in primary school, followed by three years in the preparatory school. The 15 to 17 year old students spend three years in secondary school, followed by the tertiary level. Moreover, Egypt has a broad range of universities throughout the country.
The Egyptian Revolution and its aftermath
Egypt's legal system is based on Napoleonic civil and Islamic religious law. The Supreme Court and the Council of State guarantee a judicial review. According to Freedom House, the judicial independence in Egypt was able to enhance after the dissolution of the Mubarak regime.
The head of state is the President of the Republic. Head of government is the Prime Minister. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral Parliament composed of the Advisory Council («Shura» Council – lower house), which holds a mostly consultative role, and the Peoples Assembly (upper house), which is entrusted a decisive power in legislation drafting. The Shura Council is made up of a total of 270 seats: 180 of its members are elected through popular vote and 90 are appointed by presidential decree. Shura Council members are elected for an overall six-year term, with elections for half of the members taking place every 3 years. The People's Assembly encompasses a total of 508 members, who serve a five-year term. 498 of them are elected by popular vote, with 64 of the seats being reserved for women. The president appoints 10 members of the People's Assembly. The so-called Egyptian Revolution of January 2011 freed the country from the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak. In August 2011, the trial against Mubarak, his sons, his former interior minister Habib al-Adli and several police officials began. Only Mubarak and al-Adli received a life sentence for malpractice, corruption and demand for killing. All co-defendants were acquitted of a charge.
Parliamentary and presidential elections were held in Egypt. The elections of the People's Assembly were held in three phases between November 2011 and January 2012. Egypt holds a universal and compulsory suffrage after the age of 18. Yet, the elections did reportedly not comply with democratic principles as the Supreme Electoral Commission did not enforce sufficient election laws. According to several election observers, such as the Carter Center, extensive campaigning outside of polling sites took place. Moreover, it was generally forbidden for purely religious parties to participate in the elections. The participation of Al-Nour violated this ban. Moreover, security measure, instructions, complaint mechanisms etc. were missing throughout the election.
The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist parties were able to gain the majority of the vote. The Democratic Alliance for Egypt (Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) gained 45% of the vote, followed by the Alliance for Egypt (Islamic/Salafi Bloc) with 28.6%, while the New Wafd Party gained 8.5%, the Egyptian Bloc 5.4 and others 2.8%. The Supreme Court dissolved the People's Assembly on 14 June 2012; a lawsuit to dissolve the Advisory Council is pending.
After several disputes as to whether a former Mubarak era government official (namely, ex-prime minister Ahmad Shafiq) should be allowed to run for presidecy , the Supreme Council of Armed Forces ruled in his favour, making him one of the main competitors alongside with Freedom and Justice Party-affiliated, Muslim Brotherhood-raised candidate Mohammed Morsi, Al-Nour Party-endorsed Abdoul Moneeim Aboul Fotouh, (Nasserist) Dignity Party leader Hamdeen Sabahi and former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. In the first round of the elections, which took place on May 23-24, 2012, Morsi gained 24.3% of the vote, Shafiq 23.3%, Sabbahi 20.4%, Aboul Fatouh 17.2% and Moussa 11.1%. In the runoff, held on June 16-17, Morsi and Shafiq obtained 51.7% and 48.3% of the vote respectively. On the 30th of June 2012, Morsi was sworn in, becoming the first democratically elected president after the fall of Mubarak. A new Constitution was passed by the Constituent Assembly in November and approved by a referendum (64% of votes in favour) at the end of December. Popular participation was however low (33% of the electorate).
A special decree issued by Morsi in November 2012 and preventing any other authority from removing presidential decisions was withdrawn at the beginning of the following month after the outbreak of massive popular protests. Tension reached a peak when protesters surrounded the presidential palace, and violent clashes between pro-Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood, Freedom and Justice Party) and anti-government demonstrators (leftists, liberals, secularists, Christians) took place. Seven of the president’s advisors resigned. During the second anniversary of the Tahrir Square uprising in January 2013, new violent protests erupted in many Egyptian cities. The situation escalated into even stronger confrontation between opposition demonstrators and security forces when it became known that twenty-one people involved in the Port Said stadium disorders of one year earlier had been sentenced to death.
On June 3, 2013 the Supreme constitutional Court deemed invalid the laws that had been governing the working procedures of the new Constitution’s drafting body, as well as the elections of the (currently only operating) lower house of the Parliament. The next elections, scheduled to be held on the 6th of March, have currently been postponed without a new date being given.
Tension reached a new peak between the end of June and the beginning of July, as tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Morsi gathered to hold rival rallies to mark the first anniversary of his arrival to power. For several days, pro-Morsi demonstrations took place in various neighbourhoods of Cairo in praise of his achievements, while a massive anti-presidential one was staged starting form the 30th of June in Tahrir Square calling for his resignation – lasting well beyond the beginning of the following week. The Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters were stormed.
On July 1, the military Command issued President Morsi an ultimatum to find an agreement with the opposition or step down within the following 48 hours, to which he replied with a defiant rejection one day later. In the night of July 3, President Morsi was removed from his palace and placed under arrest. Head chief of Armed Forces Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi gave the official announcement of the suspension of the Constitution the following morning, outlining a «road map» for political transition and national reconciliation. In the meantime, the army took control of Cairo’s key strategic points. Later that day, Supreme Court top representative Adly Mansour was sworn in as Egypt’s interim President. July 5 reports of former EAIA chief Mohammed El-Baradei having been nominated new Prime Minister were dismissed one day later and desubstantiated on July 9, when former Finance Minister Hazem Beblawi was appointed to the position with El-Baradei as his Deputy.
In mid August, after nearly six weeks of intense pro-Morsi demonstrations, several hundred people have died and many others have remained injured as security forces led a massive operation to dismantle their encampments all over Cairo. Vast-scale violent confrontation took place also in many other cities. New widespread violence has taken place also in the following days, with several scenes of full scale and highly deadly urban fighting in many areas of major cities. By the end of August, with a nightly curfew in place as well as high military and police presence in the streets of major cities, street fights largely disappeared and the situation seems somewhat calmer.
While Morsi’s rule had been very divisive, generating, and being regarded with, favour and enthusiasm on the one hand as well as suspicion and resentment on the other, his removal has proven no less than inflammatory. The situation in the country remains extremely tense, as Egyptian society appears to be increasingly polarized, if not deeply split, between supporters and opponents of the ousted president, with the latter ones being able to count on the important backing of the military. No real middle ground between the two sides, particularly the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, seems to be currently present, with both of them acting against each other in a logic of a win-or-lose-it-all zero-sum-game in which the other party appears to be seen as an enemy to be fought rather than an adversary with whom a compromise may be found. President Morsi’s removal among jubilation and rage remains a vitriolic fact on the ground, as what by many Egyptians has been seen as a necessary step for the rescue and protection of their democracy, has also been regarded as a fatal blow with the goal of her sabotage and overthrowal by many others.
These developments have been raising some serious concerns about the future trajectory of Egypt’s recently initiated, widely hoped-upon democratic transition process.
Political System and Recent Developments
The following period has been characterized by swift developments in all political aspects; the violent crackdown on any possible revolt against the new regime, the clearance of Mubarak and his aids in killing protesters and corruption charges and dominating the country without any legislative entity represents the people.
In September 2013, Egypt interim government has moved swiftly to form a 50-member committee to amend the suspended 2012 constitution within only two months in order to be ready for a public referendum. The committee has gathered representatives from all segments of society, except Muslim Brotherhood.
The mounting outrage has driven the interim government to extend the state of emergency for two months in November 2013. Few days later, a court decree has been issued banned all Muslim Brotherhood activities, froze all its assets and labeled it as a terrorist group. Furthermore, Morsi has been charged along with 14 others over the killings of protesters during clashes outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
It has been not a long time before Egypt has received a massive blow to political freedom by the government issued a new legislation criminalised staging any demonstration without a prior approval from the police; a precautionary step to thwart any possible dissent in the future, at a time coincided with many demonstrations throughout Egyptian governorates. According to the new legislation, protesters who would organize protests without prior permission would be fined between 1200 to 3600 euros. Moreover, protesters who would be caught carrying weapons, explosives, ammunition or fireworks, wearing masks or blocking roads would face up to seven years in prison and would be fined 35.000 euros.
By the end of January 2014, the referendum on the newly amended constitution has passed with 98.1% voted in favor of it. Approximately 20 million people, representing 38.6% of those who are eligible to vote have participated, according to the constitutional committee. However; the Anti-Coup Alliance, composed largely of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, denied the results claiming that the referendum could not be considered a real democracy without being able to introduce any proof for their claims.
By the end of the same month, Morsi has been pleaded guilty, along with other prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders, of the murdering and kidnapping of guards at Wadi Natroun prison during the 2011-uprising -when armed men broke through the prison and freed thousands of its inmates - conspiring with Hamas Movement in Gaza and other international branches of Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize Egypt and training armed Iranian militants to destroy the country.
An Egyptian court has handed out the biggest mass death sentence in Egypt’s modern history by condemning 529 members of Muslim Brotherhood to death for murder and other offenses in March 2014.
After denying his intention to nominate himself for presidency, El-Sisi openly expressed, in a televised speech on March 4, 2014, his aspirations towards taking part in the presidential race “if the Egyptian people and army want him to”.
Despite the intensive media campaign and El-Sisi’s calls for Egyptians to actively participate in the presidential elections in May 2014 by heading to polling stations, only 46% of Egypt's 54 million eligible voters have taken part. El-Sisi could not even reach the 52% turnout secured by Morsi during the 2012 presidential election.
Two months later, the crackdown on NGOs has been launched with a new legislation proposed by the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Moreover, there have been new governmental proposals presented aimed at restricting the freedom of association and tightening controls on civil society.
Long criticized military tribunals for civilians have reappeared in October 2014, after El-Sisi has issued a decree to try civilians suspected of carrying out attacks on the government in front of military courts, which meant that defendants would lack the due process guaranteed by regular courts, according to Human Rights Watch, the New York based campaign group.
Few days later, military courts have received cases, of 438 of Morsi supporters, in connection with violence emerged after July 2013. In this case, 139 of former president supporters were expected to stand trial over the deaths of 3 policemen in Minya, a province in Upper Egypt, while the rest, 299 defendants, were tried in relation to the deaths of five civilians in clashes between Islamist protesters and government forces and setting fire in the provincial government headquarters in Damanhur. The date of the aforementioned violence accidents have coincided with the bloody crackdown in Rabaa and al-Nahda sit-ins by the security forces in mid-August 2013.
The year 2014 hadn’t come to an end, until Mubarak was acquitted of charges over the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising. However, Egypt's public prosecutor has announced he would appeal the ruling, saying that the decision was "not influenced by disputes among political groups”. Moreover, seven of Mubarak's security commanders, including his interior minister al-Adli, were acquitted of the deaths of approximately 800 protesters in 2011.
In February 2015, El-Sisi has approved an anti-terrorism law that gave the government unlimited authority to ban groups on accusations ranging from harming national unity to disrupting public order. At the same month, an Egyptian court has sentenced 230 people to life in prison - including a number of prominent liberal activists - for taking part in clashes in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising. The case was related to clashes between protesters and security forces in December 2011 during which dozens were killed.
Due to an unconstitutional election law, the Egyptian Supreme Court has suspended the parliamentary elections that have been supposed to be launched in March 2015 to mark the final phase of the transitional period that was agreed on following the removal of Morsi.
Regarding the judiciary developments, official media has published reports in March 2015 on a disciplinary court that has sent 41 judges into enforced retirement for supporting Muslim Brotherhood, while Reuters news agency report claimed that 31 of these judges have signed a document condemning Morsi's removal. Other 10 judges were removed from their posts for joining the "Judges for Egypt" group, which supported Muslim Brotherhood even before Morsi's removal, according to judicial resources. In general, the Egyptian law forbids judges from engaging in politics; however, the judicial disciplinary court has disregarded judges who openly support El-Sisi regime.
In March 2015, an Egyptian court has cleared Habib al-Adli of illegally compiling approximately 22 million euros. Furthermore, an appeal court has overturned a suspended five-year sentence against al-Adli and former premier, during Mubarak era, Ahmed Nazif over other corruption charges. A month following, an Egyptian court has begun to retry Mubarak and his sons over corruption charges. The three of them were facing charges of dissipating public funds - more than 12 million euros - to upgrade personal properties, which they vehemently denied. Mubarak was sentenced to three years in May 2014 and his two sons were given a four-year sentence in the same case. However, in January 2015, Egypt's high court overturned the conviction against them and the two brothers are now free and Mubarak is currently being treated in a military hospital in Cairo.
On the other hand, another Egyptian court has sentenced the general guide of Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie and 13 other members to death in relation with inciting violence and planning attacks on police and army institutions in mid-March 2015. Shortly, a court has sentenced 22 of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for an attack on a police station in Kerdasa to the west of Cairo. In April 2015, Morsi was sentenced to 20 years on charges involving violence against protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012; however, he was cleared of murder of the protesters in the same case.
There has been an attempt to sue Mubarak over the death of nearly 800 protesters in 2011 after he was cleared a few months ago; this time the attempt has come from a judge in the Court of Cassation who said that Mubarak should be retried on charges of unlawfully killing protesters.
Furthermore, the authorities have detained, charged, or sentenced at least 41,000 people between July 2013 and May 2014, according to Human Rights Watch report in June 2015. Two weeks later, a presidential pardon has been issued for 165 detainees - most of them were youth and minors - who were put in jail by the anti-protest law to pacify angry opponents.
Muslim Brotherhood group said that the Cairo criminal court's verdicts over a mass jail break during the 2011 uprising and a life imprisonment for giving state secrets to Qatar, issued in June 2015, against Morsi and five other Brotherhood leaders including Badie were illegal and has called for an uprising against the death sentences, detentions, kidnappings, and forced disappearances.
In August 2015, El-Sisi has approved long-controversial anti-terrorism laws that set up special courts and give the military and police absolute immunity against legal prosecution for the use of force in performing their duties. The sentences for various terrorism crimes are ranging from five years to the death penalty. According to the Egyptian journalist syndicate, these laws are restricting freedom of press; as they stipulate that any journalist who publishes news that contradicts the state narration concerning terrorism-related cases would expose oneself to prison sentences. Moreover, anyone who creates or uses websites promoting ideas call for violence will be put in jail for a period ranging from five to seven years. At the present time, eighteen Egyptian journalists are in jail, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists' tally of June 2015 - the highest number in CPJ records for Egypt.
In 2014, Egypt's unemployment rate has reached 13.4 percent officially, while the total budget deficit has been 12.5 to 12.6 percent of GDP for the fiscal year 2013/2014. This number was expected to go higher without the Gulf countries’ grants to Egypt; the deficit would have reached 17.4 percent of GDP, according to a European Commission report in 2014. As a result thereof, Egypt announced sharp cuts in energy subsidies in its budget for the fiscal year 2014/15.
In an attempt to boast economy, the government has invited nearly 100 countries and international organization to Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm El-Sheikh last March amid hopes of attracting billions of euros for the ailing economy.
During the conference, Egypt has announced building a new administrative capital that would house 5 million individual and provide 10 million jobs halfway between Cairo and the Suez Canal. The estimated cost of building this capital has been 40 billion euros.
In August 2015, Egypt has inaugurated a major expansion to the Suez Canal in order to increase traffic and revenues. The widening work has taken a year and cost over approximately 7.5 billion euros. However, analysts have doubted over its economic benefits, suggesting that the government's expectations of achieving 12.5 billion euros annually by 2023 are overly optimistic.
The Relation with the European Union
During the year 2014, the EU has continued to be Egypt’s main trading partner, with total trade in goods totaled up to 25.5 billion euros. The mutual trade and investment have been affected by trade irritants, regulatory barriers and restrictions on investment.
The EU-Egypt dialogue on the ENP is still frozen and the action plan has been extended to March 2015. Talks have been taken place between the two sides in February and December 2014 aiming at reviving the dialogue. The EU and Egypt have agreed to resume their cooperation within the Association Agreement framework in the future.
In September 2013, former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has survived an assassination attempt near his home in Cairo; the blast has injured more than 20 persons, while in February 2014, four were killed and 13 injured in a tourist bus attack in Sinai.
In Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis terrorist group has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and named itself Sinai Province in November 2014. This group has claimed its responsibility for many attacks on police and army personnel, and these attack have been intensified especially after the removal of Morsi in July 2013.
In February 2015, Egypt has called for forming UN-backed international coalition against the "Islamic State" in Libya. After the beheading of 21 Christian Egyptians in Libya, Cairo has launched airstrikes on the Islamic State’s targets in the eastern city of Derna.
On June 29, 2015, public prosecutor Hisham Barakat died of his wounds in an attack that targeted his motorcade. The attack has come following calls from the Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt for carrying out attacks on judiciary members after the execution of six militants.
In July 2015, one person has died and others have been injured in a massive explosion in front of the Italian consulate in the heart of Cairo. At the same month, an attack on military outposts in Sinai has led to an hour long battle. At least, 17 soldiers and over 200 militants have been killed on July 1, according to the Egyptian military statement. However, some local and international media said military casualties were between 50 and 70.
Sinai still causes a major challenge facing Egypt; Islamic State Sinai Province has claimed carrying out a missile attack on an Egyptian naval vessel in the Mediterranean Sea in July 2015. In response to that claim, Egyptian officials have said a coastguard vessel has caught fire after a fire-fight with militants on the shore.
During the past few months, many individuals have been reported missing at the hand of the security services, according to human rights activists in Egypt. One campaign group has said that in two months it has recorded 163 cases of "enforced disappearances"; most of those people have been found in custody later.
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Interview mit C·A·P Reseach Fellow Dina Ibrahim
29.07.2015 · C·A·P
C·A·Perspectives · 1 · 2015
23.02.2015 · Ismail Alexandrani
C·A·P Working Paper von Michael Bauer
22.01.2015 · C·A·P
Panel discussion at the C·A·P
19.08.2013 · C·A·P
Civic education program Leading Change Across the Mediterranean
22.11.2012 · C·A·P
Workshop with trainers from Egypt, Tunisia and Germany
23.10.2012 · C·A·P
Erster Workshop mit TrainerInnen aus Ägypten, Tunesien und Deutschland
22.10.2012 · C·A·P
Ägypten: Instrumentalisiert das Milität die christliche Minderheit? Unruhen sichern die Macht, meint Michael Bauer
21.06.2012 · Tagespost
C·A·Perspectives · 1 · 2012
13.01.2012 · Michael Bauer, Thomas Schiller
By Michael Bauer und Christian-Peter Hanelt
16.06.2011 · C·A·P
C·A·Perspectives · 2 · 2011
28.03.2011 · Timo Behr
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16.11.2009 · C·A·P