Egypt has operated under several constitutions, both as a monarchy and, after 1952, as a republic. The first and most liberal of these was the 1923 constitution, which was promulgated just after Britain declared Egypt’s independence. That document laid the political and cultural groundwork for modern Egypt, declaring it an independent sovereign Islamic state with Arabic as its language. The vote was extended to all adult males. This constitution provided for a bicameral parliament, an independent judiciary, and a strong executive in the form of the king. In 1930 this constitution was replaced by another one, which gave even more powers to the king and his ministers. Following vigorous protest, it was abrogated five years later. The 1923 constitution again came into force but was permanently abolished after the revolution in 1952. The Republic of Egypt was declared in 1953. The new ruling junta—led by a charismatic army officer, Gamal Abdel Nasser—abolished all political parties, which had operated with relative freedom under the monarchy, and a new constitution, in which women were granted the franchise, was introduced in 1956.
To replace the abolished political parties, the regime formed the National Union in 1957—from 1962 the Arab Socialist Union (ASU)—which dominated political life in Egypt for the next 15 years. An interim constitution was promulgated in 1964. At the heart of the postrevolutionary regime was a commitment to Pan-Arabism, the nationalist philosophy that called for the establishment of a single Arab state, and during the following decades Egypt engaged in several abortive attempts to forge transnational unions with other Arab countries.
In 1958 Egypt and Syria were merged into one state, called the United Arab Republic, a name that was retained by Egypt for a decade after Syria’s secession in 1961.
In 1971 Egypt, Libya, and Syria agreed to establish the Federation of Arab Republics, but the federation never actually materialized. A draft constitution was accepted by the heads of state of each country and was approved by referenda in each of the three member states. The capital of the federation would be Cairo. In 1977, however, deteriorating relations between Egypt and other Arab states over Egypt’s peace negotiations with Israel led to the end of the federation and to Egypt’s suspension from the Arab League, a regional organization of which it had been a founding member.
Egypt’s current constitution was approved by referendum on Sept. 11, 1971. It proclaimed the Arab Republic of Egypt to be “a democratic, socialist state,” with Islam as its state religion and Arabic as its national language. It recognized three types of ownership—public, cooperative, and private—and guaranteed the equality of all Egyptians before the law and their protection against arbitrary intervention by the state in the legal process. It also affirmed the people’s rights to peaceful assembly, education, and health and social security and the right to organize into associations or unions and to vote. According to the constitution and its subsequent amendments, the president of the republic is the head of state and, together with the cabinet, constitutes the executive authority. The president must be Egyptian, born of Egyptian parents, and at least 40 years old. The presidential term is six years and may be extended to an unlimited number of additional terms.
The president has the power to appoint and dismiss one or more vice presidents, the prime minister, ministers, and deputy ministers. In 2005 Egypt held its first presidential election where multiple candidates vied for the office and which was conducted by popular vote. Prior to that time, a single candidate had been chosen by the legislature then confirmed by national plebiscite.
The president is the supreme commander of the armed forces and has the right to grant amnesty and reduce sentence, the power to appoint civil and military officials and to dismiss them in a manner prescribed by the law, and the authority to call a referendum on matters of supreme importance. The president can, in exceptional cases and by investiture of the legislature, issue decrees having the force of law—but only for a defined time period.
Legislative power resides in the People’s Assembly, which is composed primarily of elected members, some of whom must be women; a few members are appointed by the president. Members of the assembly are elected, under a complex system of proportional representation, for terms of five years. All males age 18 and older are required to vote, as well as all women on the register of voters. The president convenes and closes the sessions of the People’s Assembly.
The People’s Assembly must ratify all laws and examine and approve the national budget. It also approves the program of each newly appointed cabinet. Should it withdraw its confidence from any member of the cabinet, that person is required to resign. The president cannot dissolve the assembly except under special circumstances and only after a vote of approval by a people’s referendum. Elections for a new assembly must be held within 60 days of dissolution. A second body, the Consultative Assembly, was formed in 1980. It acts in many ways as an upper house of the legislature and may propose new amendments to the constitution, advise the president on issues of foreign policy and economic development, and conduct studies of any issues submitted to it by the president. Roughly two-thirds of the Consultative Assembly is elected. The remainder consists of presidential appointees. Members serve six-year terms. "Egypt" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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