Egypt country overview

Egypt Government

Egypt information index

Egypt Government

Egypt has had multiple constitutions throughout its history, starting with the 1923 constitution which was established after Egypt gained independence from Britain. This constitution laid the foundation for modern Egypt, declaring it an independent Islamic state with Arabic as its official language. It granted voting rights to all adult males and established a bicameral parliament, an independent judiciary, and a strong executive branch led by the king. In 1930, this constitution was replaced with one that gave even more power to the king and his ministers, but it was abrogated five years later due to protests. The 1923 constitution was reinstated but permanently abolished after the revolution in 1952, when the Republic of Egypt was declared. Under the new ruling junta led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, all political parties were abolished and a new constitution was introduced in 1956, which granted women the right to vote. The regime formed the National Union in 1957, later known as the Arab Socialist Union, which dominated political life for the next 15 years. An interim constitution was established in 1964.

The post-revolutionary regime was committed to Pan-Arabism, the idea of a unified Arab state, and Egypt made several unsuccessful attempts to form transnational unions with other Arab countries. In 1958, Egypt and Syria merged to form the United Arab Republic, which lasted for a decade after Syria’s secession in 1961. In 1971, Egypt, Libya, and Syria agreed to establish the Federation of Arab Republics, but it never materialized. However, deteriorating relations between Egypt and other Arab states over peace negotiations with Israel led to the end of the federation in 1977 and Egypt’s suspension from the Arab League.

In 1971, a new constitution was adopted to replace the interim constitution of 1964. It has been amended several times since then, most recently in 2007. In 2005, Egypt held its first presidential election with multiple candidates, a departure from the previous practice of a single candidate chosen by the legislature. The 1971 constitution was suspended in 2011 following a popular uprising that resulted in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. An interim constitutional declaration was issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, incorporating provisions from the 1971 constitution and new measures to make elections more open and impose term limits on the presidency.

In 2012, a Constituent Assembly was appointed to draft a new constitution, with Islamist parties holding the majority of seats. Tensions between the Islamist bloc and the opposition led to a deadlock, but the draft constitution was ultimately passed and approved in a national referendum in 2012. However, the 2012 constitution was suspended in 2013 when President Mohamed Morsi was removed from power after widespread protests. An interim administration was established, and a new panel was convened to replace the 2012 constitution. The new constitution, approved by voters in 2014, removed much of the conservative religious language from the previous document. Amendments were later approved in 2019, extending presidential terms and reintroducing an upper chamber of the legislature.

Constitutional framework

The Egyptian constitution declares that the Arab Republic of Egypt is a democratic state with Islam as its state religion and Arabic as its national language. It acknowledges both public and private ownership and ensures the equality of all Egyptians under the law, protecting them from arbitrary interference by the state in legal proceedings. It also upholds the rights of the people to peaceful assembly, the formation of associations or unions, and the exercise of their right to vote. The constitution prohibits the formation of political parties based on religion.

The president of the republic, along with the cabinet, forms the executive authority. The president must be of Egyptian nationality, born to Egyptian parents, and at least 40 years old. The presidential term is six years and can be extended for an additional term. The president appoints the prime minister (who serves as the head of government), ministers, and deputy ministers. The cabinet is required to present its agenda to the legislative body, known as the House of Representatives. The president has the authority to grant amnesty, reduce sentences, appoint civil and military officials, and dismiss them in accordance with the law. The president serves as the supreme commander of the armed forces but can only declare war after consulting the National Defense Council, which consists of military officers and civilians, and with the approval of a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives.

Legislative power is vested in the House of Representatives, which is comprised of members elected through a complex proportional representation system for terms of five years. The House of Representatives ratifies all laws, examines and approves the national budget, and has the right to question members of the cabinet. It can dismiss the prime minister, cabinet ministers, or entire cabinets through a motion of no confidence passed by a simple majority. The House of Representatives also has the authority to impeach the president with a two-thirds majority. The president is not allowed to dissolve the House of Representatives without a public referendum.

The Senate was established in October 2020 following constitutional amendments passed in 2019, which reintroduced an upper chamber. Previously, the legislature was unicameral under the 2014 constitution. Senators serve five-year terms, with one-third elected by the constituency, one-third elected through proportional representation, and another one-third appointed by the president. The primary role of the Senate is to provide opinions and proposals on matters concerning national unity, social cohesion, government structure, and constitutional amendments. The chamber does not have any responsibilities related to the appointment or removal of government members.

Local government

Until 1960, the government administration in the country was highly centralized. However, a system of local governance was introduced in that year to decentralize administration and encourage greater citizen participation at the local level. The 1960 Local Administration Law established three levels of subnational administration: governorates, districts or counties, and villages. This structure combines elements of both local administration and local self-government. Each administrative level has two councils: an elected people’s council and an appointed executive council. Although these councils have significant legislative powers, they are ultimately controlled by the central government.

The country is divided into 27 governorates, with Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, and Suez having governorate status. The governor is appointed by the president of the republic and can be dismissed by them. The governor holds the highest executive authority in the governorate and has administrative control over all government personnel, except judges. They are responsible for implementing policies.

The governorate council consists mostly of elected members. According to the law, at least half of the council members should be farmers and workers. However, achieving this ratio has been challenging in practice. Farmers, in particular, have limited spare time due to their long working hours, making it difficult for them to run for office or attend lengthy meetings. Additionally, many older farmers and workers lack the necessary formal education to effectively serve in these positions. The town or district councils and village councils follow the same principles as the governorate councils.

Governorate and local councils have a wide range of responsibilities, including education, health, public utilities, housing, agriculture, and communications. They also play a role in promoting the cooperative movement and implementing parts of the national plan. These councils obtain their funds from various sources, such as national revenue, real estate taxes within the governorate, local taxes or fees, profits from public utilities and commercial enterprises, as well as national subsidies, grants, and loans.


The 2014 constitution places great importance on the independence of the judiciary, ensuring that there is no external interference in the due processes of justice. Judges are solely subject to the law and cannot be dismissed without proper legal procedures. Their discipline is also regulated by the law. The state appoints judges with the prior approval of the Supreme Judicial Council, which is responsible for overseeing all judicial bodies and has its composition and special functions defined by law.

The court system in Egypt can be categorized into four divisions, each having civil and criminal branches. These divisions include district tribunals, tribunals of the first instance, courts of appeal, and the highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation, which has the authority to overturn rulings made by lower courts. Court sessions are generally open to the public, except in cases where matters of public order or decency require privacy. Sentences are pronounced in open court.

Additionally, there are special courts such as military courts and courts of public security, which handle cases related to crimes against the state’s well-being or security. The Council of State is a separate judicial body that primarily deals with administrative disputes and disciplinary actions. The Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo holds the highest judicial authority in Egypt. Its responsibilities include reviewing the constitutionality of laws and regulations and resolving conflicts among different courts.

Egypt was the first Arab country to eliminate communal courts based on religion in 1956. Personal status matters, such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, are now adjudicated by civil courts. However, these courts still consider the principles of Sharīʿah (Islamic law), as well as the regulations of the Coptic Orthodox Church and other Christian institutions. The civil and penal codes, as well as court procedures, are based on French law but are also influenced by Sharīʿah.

Political process

After 1962, all popular participation and representation in the political process were channeled through the Arab Socialist Union (ASU). However, in 1976, the ASU split into three factions: left, center, and right. Subsequently, other political parties emerged and were officially recognized by a law passed in June 1977. By 1978, the ASU had been overshadowed by these new political parties and was officially abolished through a constitutional amendment in 1980.

Until 2011, the National Democratic Party (NDP), established by President Anwar Sadat in 1978, served as the official government party and held the majority of seats in the People’s Assembly. Notably absent from official representation were the communists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other extremist religious groups. However, in the 2005 election for the People’s Assembly, numerous candidates who were elected as “independents” were actually members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Following President Mubarak’s resignation in 2011, the NDP was dissolved. Various political groups, including those previously banned, began to organize political parties and seek official recognition. The Muslim Brotherhood launched its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, in early 2011. This party achieved significant success in the legislative and presidential elections of 2011 and 2012 and operated freely until July 2013, when President Morsi was ousted by the military and a widespread crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood ensued. In early 2014, constitutional amendments were passed to reinstate the pre-2011 prohibition on political parties based on religion.

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