Gamal Abdelnasser

Political Change in Egypt

The Parliamentary Elections of 2000 and Horizons of Reform

SWP Research Paper 2001/S 19, July 2001, 25 Pages

As part of a wider study on Elite Change in the Arab World, Abdelnasser looked at the latest parliamentary elections in Egypt in order to analyse why certain social groups have emerged and others disappered. The elections were for the first time carried out under judicial supervision in October and November 2000. In contrast to the elections of the ninetees they reflect relatively big change. The elections resulted in the replacement of more than two-thirds of the parliamentarians. 277 members entered the parliament for the first time in their life. The banned Muslim Brotherhood returned to the political arena after ten years of absence and won at least 17 seats.

In light of these results, the paper concentrates on political reform, elite formation and change in Egypt. Contrary to widely held assumptions the author starts from the hypothesis that elections disclose the patterns of representation of every social group in rural as well as urban areas and reflect the patterns of choosing an elite. Even if different social and religious groups are not represented proportionally in any democracy, the composition of parliamentary elites is not disconnected from society.

In order to recognize change the author suggests comparing Egypt's political landscape and its political elite with its situation ten, twenty or thirty years ago rather than with other countries. Egypt provides an example of a country that is transforming from an authoritarian system to a system with more liberal features. This transformation is taking place through a gradual process closely connected to changes in the regional and international environment. It can be called a process of pluralization in which the single decision-maker or the single institution is "de- monopolized". This break-up leaves multiple institutional units on the horizontal level behind. Within the institutions, i.e., on the vertical level, it will bring the second and third-rank elite up. The Egyptian experience shows that this happens faster in economic than in political institutions.

The pluralization of decision-making institutions brings about competition and negotiations on the economic and political resources between the emerging units. Here the role of the judiciary ensures a transition towards the rule of law. The emergent pluralism visible in state and society is represented in an emergent new elite sometimes referred to as "generation of peace". This generation has now reached the second and third rank positions within the most important state institutions, and to a lesser extent in political parties and trade unions.

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