Egypt’s Parliamentary Elections, 2011-2012: A Critical Guide
The toppling of President Hosni Mubarak, along with his ruling National Democratic Party, in the wake of the 2011 eighteen-day uprising has changed the face of Egyptian politics in unprecedented ways. The aftermath of the uprising brought to the forefront of Egypt’s electoral arena new political actors who continue to shape the dynamics of continuity and change in post-Mubarak Egypt. The need for developing a nuanced, historically grounded understanding of who these actors are and their roles in ongoing conflicts over the meaning and future of the January 25 Revolution has never been greater.
As the first multi-party national election after the 2011 uprising, the 2011/2012 parliamentary elections marked an important juncture in Egyptian politics. The lead-up to the elections witnessed the emergence of a new political arena composed of a variety of previously unknown parties, coalitions, and figures. Based on Jadaliyya and Ahram Online’s joint coverage of the parliamentary elections, Egypt’s Parliamentary Elections, 2011-2012 provides readers with a critical look at Egypt’s political field during the lead-up to the vote.
The first section comprises a comprehensive guide to the most important political parties that participated in the elections, including each party’s history, plans for parliamentary elections, positions on salient issues, political alliances, and key leaders. The second section includes profiles of prominent individuals who have shaped the political context in which the elections were convened. The third section summarizes the major rules and laws that governed the 2011/2012 elections. The volume includes an appendix detailing the elections results for the lower house of parliament.
Research for this initiative was supported by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University and the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University.
Far more than an election guide, this book Egypt’s Parliamentary Elections, 2011-2012: A Guide to a Changing Political Arena is a veritable Who's Who of contemporary Egypt, covering the backgrounds, policy stances, and organizational structures of over two dozen major parties and politicians of the post-Mubarak era. It is an indispensable resource for journalists, researchers, students, and anyone else trying to understand Egypt's dynamic political scene.
-Jason Brownlee, University of Texas, Austin
Whatever your view of Egypt's 2011-12 parliamentary elections, they indelibly influenced how the transition unfolded. Rarely do those who study or live politics ever witness a country go from its most fraudulent to freest parliamentary elections in twelve months. Egypt Elections Watch researchers have gathered a copious amount of material to help us make sense of the first legislative elections after Egypt's uprising. This collection not only provides encyclopedic depths of information on actors, parties, coalitions, laws, and results but also records and analyzes the history of this seminal moment. It is a gem whose value will only increase. Egypt’s Parliamentary Elections, 2011-2012: A Guide to a Changing Political Arena is the most expansive collection of material on an election in any transitional context that has ever been assembled. If you want to understand how the transition was structured, what happened, or who's who moving forward, look no further. It is a model of data collection.
-Joshua Stacher, Kent State University
Hesham Sallam is a doctoral candidate in government at Georgetown University and co-editor of Jadaliyya ezine. His research focuses on Islamist movements and the politics of economic reform. Sallam’s research has previously received the support of the U.S Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Social Science Research Council. He is former program specialist at USIP. He previously worked at Middle East Institute, Asharq Al-Awsat , and the World Security Institute. Sallam received a B.A. in political science from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University.
In a context in which emergency law, military trials of civilians, official bans on workers strikes and demonstrations, chronic use of deadly violence against peaceful protesters by security forces, and frequent detention of political dissidents are all prevalent, it was hard to look at the 2011/2012 parliamentary elections in Egypt with anything but a healthy dose of skepticism. For many of those who were witnessing the lead-up to these elections, the vote signified a historic moment for Egyptians and a monumental step in their so-called transition to democracy. According to such perspectives, Egyptians were finally having a say in determining the future of the country in multiparty elections not managed by deposed President Hosni Mubarak or the now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP).
For others, however, this event reflected the persistence of a political practice that Mubarak instituted long before his demise, namely the convening of elections with a view to impose a façade of democratic openness on a reality devoid of any democratic openness. This view becomes even more compelling once one considers that the elections ultimately failed to generate real checks on the authority of Egypt’s military rulers, given that the powers of the parliament after the elections remained legally ambiguous and effectively limited. In June 2012 the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) dissolved parliament’s lower house after a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling deemed the election of one-third of its seats unconstitutional. While longtime Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as president on 30 June 2012, his powers were constrained by the Constitutional Declaration of 17 June, which gave the military sweeping powers. President Morsi eventually repealed the declaration and retired some SCAF leaders on 12 August 2012, though it remains unclear the extent to which these moves will actually limit the non-democratic privileges of the military establishment. More importantly, whether or not successive elections and the emergent political arena will help Egyptians realize the goals of the January 25 Revolution, “bread, freedom and social justice” is still an open question.
These opposing views are at the heart of an ongoing clash between two narratives on the state of Egypt’s Revolution—a battle that any meaningful discussion of Egypt’s 2011/2012 elections cannot overlook. One narrative, which the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and its supporters have tried to promote through friendly media outlets, alleges that the January 25 Revolution has succeeded—with the help of the Egyptian army—and that the time has come for protest movements to vacate public squares, the streets, and factories, and begin deferring to elite politics: elections, parliaments, and constitution writers. From this perspective, elections are viewed as an important step toward advancing the change that Egyptians have called for during the eighteen-day uprising that toppled Mubarak.
An opposing narrative, advanced by many dissident individuals and groups through demonstrations, strikes, and other forms of contentious political action, posits that the Revolution is far from complete and is under severe attack from the SCAF. Advocates of this latter narrative tell us that the 2011/2012 SCAF-sponsored elections are but a step toward normalizing and legitimating a political reality in which Egypt’s military rulers can dominate the current “transition” and dictate its terms in ways that secures their non-democratic privileges and those of other powerful, entrenched bureaucracies. Thus, proponents of this view fear that these elections would be used to abort rather than advance Egypt’s inconclusive revolutionary struggle.
Taking the contested meaning and significance of the 2011/2012 parliamentary elections as a point of departure,"Jadaliyya’s Egypt Elections Watch (EEW) project, launched in partnership with" Ahram Online," and co-sponsored" by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies" at" Georgetown University and the" Middle East Studies Program" at George Mason University," offers a critical perspective on Egypt’s 2011/2012 parliamentary elections. EEW provides readers with a wealth of information and analysis on the major actors and institutions that made up these elections, as well as a close view into Egypt’s “new” political arena. The project did not take for granted the notion that these are truly competitive elections equally accessible to all important social forces in Egypt, and featuring serious candidates and real political parties with meaningful agendas and coherent political platforms. Therefore, where relevant, EEW researchers have sought to highlight tensions and flaws challenging such a view, in the interest of providing readers with a nuanced insight into the Egypt’s electoral.