Essentially a country ruled by installed presidents that act similarly to dictators, and who are strangely supported by an extraordinarily large amount of the populace all year round, Egypt has never known what we Westerners would judge to be democracy. Ruled by Mubarak since 1981, Egypt’s past has been of a similar trend, with Anwar el-Sadat preceding him, who ruled a total of 11 years, which in comparison to Mubarak’s 30 years may seem pale, however this was no mean feat considering the only reason he ceded rule was due to his assassination by Islamic fundamentalists. And even before that, Gamal Abdel Nasser ruled from 1956 to 1970, an enviable 14 years at the helm. However, there is something notable about Nasser – he features among the most important figures in modern Egyptian and Arab history as a whole and was a key player in the 1952 Egyptian Revolution, which saw the monarchy overthrown. On top of this, he formed the United Arab Republic with Syria, as well as being the main force behind Pan-Arab nationalism. He was truly a figure to be adopted as a Supreme Leader.
This we can see as the reasoning behind the premiership of leading politicans within Egypt – as Nasser was a superb leader – but can we see a similar effect to that of modern Russia: does Egypt need a strong hand to keep it in line? And essentially would democracy actually work? Well from a historical perspective, as I have outlined previously, the period between the 1950s and the present has been ruled by “elected” presidents; basically authoritarian rulers. However if we delve deeper into the past, we can see a definitive trend of hard line rule.
A basic history goes thus: from 1922 to 1952 Egypt was an independent Sultanate, ruled by the last of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Kings. Before that, the country was partially administered by Britain, which declared a protectorate over Egypt in 1914, but which was subsequently lifted in 1922. From 1867 to 1914, Egypt was an autonomous state of the Ottoman Empire and we thus define the Ottomans as the “higher power” for this period. Rule from Istanbul was literal as well as official, from the acquisition of Egypt in 1517 up until 1867. However, realistically the Ottomans lost sway over the province in 1798 with Napoleon’s invasion and the seizure of power by Muhammad Ali (Egypt’s longest and possibly greatest ruler) and his establishment of the Muhammad Ali dynasty of kings.
So, basically Egypt has flirted very little with what we might consider democracy; essentially it could be the overwhelming influences ensued upon a country so close to Europe, and also the fact that it was subject to literal British administration for a key period of eight years at the start of the century. As well as this, Egypt did have a revolution in 1952 and installed a popular ruler, Naguib, who was then succeeded by Nasser, who had massive popular consent. So we know that there is a sense of democracy within the nation. But can it shine through?