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The Evolving Modern Egyptian Republic: A Special Report

March 1, 2011 | 1312 GMT

The Egyptian establishment faced internal strife over the transition of power from President
Hosni Mubarak even before massive public unrest demanding regime change erupted in mid-
January. With Mubarak now out of office, some hope for democracy while others fear the rise
of radical Islamist forces. Though neither outcome appears likely, the Egyptian state plainly is
under a great deal of stress and is being forced to make changes to ensure its survival.

The modern Egyptian state is a new polity, founded a mere 60 years ago in the wake of a
military coup organized by midranking officers under the leadership of Col. Gamal Abdel
Nasser. Nasser overthrew a 150-year-old Albanian dynasty to establish a military-dominated
regime. Mubarak was only the third leader of the order established in 1952. Under his rule and
that of his predecessor, President Anwar Sadat, Egypt evolved into a complex civil-military

Since the late 1960s, the military has not directly governed the country, allowing for the
consolidation of single-party governments led by former military officers assisted by an
increasingly civilian-dominated ruling elite. In recent years, however, the military had begun to
reassert itself given the succession question, a process accelerated by the outbreak of popular
demonstrations. The military has thus assumed a more direct role in security, governance and
managing the transition. The National Democratic Party (NDP) regime depends upon the
military to ensure its survival, and opposition forces, including the country¶s main Islamist
movement, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), are reliant upon the Egyptian armed forces to
realize their objectives.

The provisional military authority, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by the
country¶s top general, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, will play the pivotal role in
the post-Mubarak era. To understand what Egypt¶s future holds, one must examine the
evolution of the incumbent political arrangement, the central role played by the military in the
formation of the state, previous transitions, and the reasons behind the regime¶s need to oust
one of its own.

Founding and the Nasser Days

On July 23, 1952, the Free Officers Movement, a group of largely junior military officers from
lower middle class backgrounds, overthrew the monarchy and established a new political
system based on their left-wing Arab nationalist ideology. Within days, King Farouk was
exiled after having been forced to abdicate. Within a matter of months, parliament was
dissolved and political parties outlawed. A Revolutionary Command Council (RCC)
comprising the leadership committee of the Free Officers Movement ² a group that included
Lt. Col. Nasser, Maj. Abdel Hakim Amer, Lt. Col. Anwar Sadat, Maj. Salah Salem, Maj.
Kamal el-Din Hussein, Wing Cmdr. Gamal Salem, Squadron Leader Hassan Ibrahim, Maj.
Khaled Mohieddin, Wing Cmdr. Abdel Latif Baghdadi, Maj. Hussein el-Shafei and Lt. Col.
Zakaria Mohieddin ² was formed and began forging the country¶s new political and economic

Among the RCC¶s most important changes were radical agrarian reform and the confiscation of
private property. By limiting land ownership to 80 hectares (200 acres) per person ² reduced
to 20 hectares in 1969 ² and redistributing some of the confiscated land to peasants, the
military established its populist roots. The nationalization of the industry and service sector and
the creation of a mammoth public sector were other key factors sustaining the military regime.

As it steered the country away from its monarchical past, early on the new military order
encountered internal problems. Within two months of the coup, the civilian figurehead premier,
Ali Mahir Pasha, was dismissed due to his differences with the RCC over land reform policy.
Maj. Gen. Muhammad Naguib succeeded him. Four months later, in January 1953, the RCC
had Naguib disband all political parties, abolish the 1923 constitution and declare a three-year
period of transitional military rule.

Issues also emerged with the Regency Council. The council had replaced the ousted monarch
and was tasked with exercising the prerogatives of the infant King Fuad II, Farouk¶s son. The
three-member body included Prince Muhammad Abdel Moneim, a cousin of King Farouk; Col.
Rashad Mehanna, a free officer with close connections with the MB; and Bahieddin Barakat, a
former president of the Senate. Problems arose when Mehanna also turned against the RCC
over the land reform policies. The clash resulted in Mehanna¶s being imprisoned over charges
of plotting a counter-coup. With Mehanna¶s departure, the Regency Council was reduced to a
ceremonial status.

Though the Wafd, the MB and the Communists had been neutralized with the move to outlaw
political parties, the old order was not officially abolished until June 18, 1953. Egypt now was
officially a republic, with Naguib holding both the portfolios of the president and prime
minister. While the military would run the show for several years, Nasser laid the foundations
of a civilian single-party state in 1953 with the creation of an entity called the Liberation Rally.

Nasser became deputy prime minister, Abdel Hakim Amer succeeded Naguib as commander-
in-chief of the armed forces, Abdel Latif Baghdadi took over as minister of war and Salah
Salem became the minister of national guidance and Sudan affairs. Just who was the ultimate
leader of the new regime remained unclear, however, leading to strains between Naguib and

The two disagreed on a variety of issues, including the British withdrawal from Egypt; the MB,
which Nasser was hostile toward; and the issue of resuming parliamentary life, which Nasser
and his supporters opposed. (Their vilification of the politicians led to factionalization within
the RCC.) These differences made Nasser distrust Naguib and his mild attitude toward the
conservative Wafd and the Islamist MB.

Nasser ultimately began to view Naguib as an obstacle to the revolution. Nasser and his
colleagues in the RCC were in a rush to institute their envisioned political order. Naguib in turn
regarded Nasser and his supporters as impatient young men who lacked his experience.

Naguib proved the loser in this contest. He tendered a first resignation Feb. 23, 1954, but was
restored to office due to pressure from a public that still supported him and out of fears that
Khaled Mohieddin was engineering a revolt in the cavalry corps. His second and final
resignation came April 19, 1954, as a result of Nasser¶s behind-the-scenes efforts to portray
Naguib as supporting a return of the Wafd and of the old order in general.

Nasser assumed the positions of prime minister and chairman of the RCC. All the members of
the RCC were inducted into the new Cabinet except Mohieddin, the most left-leaning member
of the RCC, who was sent away to Europe. Nasser and officers in the RCC loyal to him thus
took full control of Egypt.

In January 1955, the RCC appointed Nasser president of Egypt. It took another year to draft the
new constitution. That same year, the National Union replaced the Liberation Rally as the
state¶s sole political party. The new party selected Nasser as its presidential candidate, and in
June 1956, Nasser was overwhelmingly elected president in a national referendum.

Nasser¶s election as president brought the three-year transitional period from the monarchy to
an end. The RCC was dissolved and its members resigned from the military to assume civilian
positions. The new constitution established an institutional framework for the new regime,
which concentrated power in a strong executive branch.

Now firmly in control, Nasser began paying more attention to foreign policy, in particular, to
his Pan-Arab goals. As a first step, he nationalized the Suez Canal, which led to the 1956 war
and in the process made Nasser a national hero and enhanced his stature in the wider Arab
world. His involvement in regional and international affairs ² which saw alignment with the
Soviets and hostile relations with the West and Israel; involvement in Syrian, Yemeni, Iraqi,
Algerian and Lebanese domestic politics; and tensions with Saudi Arabia and Jordan ² had an
impact on his efforts to consolidate power at home.

Nasser¶s most unusual foreign policy move was the brief merger of Egypt and Syria into the
so-called United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. North Yemen sought to join the merged state
the same year to create a loose confederation known as the United Arab States. While the
Yemeni component retained its autonomy, the Egyptian-Syrian merger required adjustments to
the still nascent political structure of Egypt. A new constitution in 1958 for the UAR created a
legislature and two vice presidents, one for Egypt and Syria, which had become provinces of
the UAR.

Merging with Syria proved challenging, however. The Syrians resented that Egyptians
dominated the UAR. Using Syria as a base to engineer a coup against Iraqi leader Abdel-
Kareem Qasim also exacted a toll on the union between Cairo and Damascus. The UAR
ultimately collapsed when Syrian army units declared the country independent in 1961 and
forced the Egyptians out of Syria.

Fearing that the collapse of the UAR would undermine his position at home, Nasser embarked
on a more aggressive drive toward socialist political economy. A new National Charter was
devised in 1962, and a new ruling party called the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) replaced the
National Union. More than half of the country¶s businesses underwent nationalization, and
Nasser¶s opponents in the military were purged from the ranks.

While Nasser was working on a new constitution in the post-UAR period, the rise to power of
pro-Nasser military officers in a coup that overthrew the monarchy in North Yemen once again
pulled the Egyptian leader out of domestic politics and into regional geopolitics. A proxy war
ensued between the Egyptians, who supported the new Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), and the
Saudis, who threw their weight behind the forces of ousted Imam Muhammad al-Badr. Unable
to impose a military solution, Egyptian forces backing YAR troops became locked in a
stalemate with Yemeni monarchist forces. Many of Nasser¶s top comrades came to oppose the
military adventure in Yemen.

Further afield, the 1963 coup in Iraq brought pro-Nasser forces to power, and there was once
again a move toward a new Arab union. The idea never gained traction because Nasser insisted
on his own vision, and by this time Nasser faced serious domestic challenges from individuals
who had been with him since the Free Officer and RCC days, including Amer, Sadat and

A provisional constitution was enacted in 1964 that created a 350-member parliament.

Elections were held and the new legislature completed one four-year term and another half term
from the 1969 legislative elections before yet another constitution was enacted in 1971. Nasser
secured a second six-year term in a fresh presidential election, taking his oath of office in
March 1965.

While Nasser and many of his close allies had become civilian leaders, the military remained
very much part of the government. It was not until Egypt¶s crushing defeat at the hands of
Israel in the June 1967 war that the military truly began moving away from actual governance.
The defeat was a major setback for the military establishment¶s reputation. In the period of
introspection that followed the defeat, the regime decided that the military¶s direct involvement
in governance had degraded its professionalism. The 1967 war was seen as the culmination of a
series of miscalculations, including the lack of preparation for the British-French-Israeli assault
in the wake of the 1956 nationalization of the Suez Canal; the 1961 military coup by Syrian
military officers, which led to the collapse of the union between Egypt and Syria; and the losses
incurred in Yemen.

In an attempt to recover from the 1967 war, Nasser was forced to make changes to the military
order he had established a mere 15 years earlier, removing senior military officers including
military chief Field Marshal Amer, air force chief Gen. Muhammad Sidqi Mahmud and nine
other generals. (Replaced as commander of the armed forces by Gen. Muhammad Fawzi, Amer
eventually committed suicide.) The changes saw a second generation of military commanders
come to the fore, a group that, with the exception of the army chief, had no direct ties to the
Free Officers Movement. Under pressure from anti-government demonstrations triggered by
the 1967 defeat, Nasser embarked on the March 30 Program, an initiative aimed at overhauling
the military and the political system. In 1968, Nasser promulgated a law designed to separate
the military from the formal government structures, but because the Israelis controlled the Sinai
Peninsula, the army retained a privileged position within the state.

Despite these problems on the home front, which remained volatile, Nasser continued to dabble
in foreign policy but by now had backed off from his desire to control the Arab world. Instead,
he sought an Arab alignment against Israel. Nasser gave himself the additional roles of prime
minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In December 1969, he appointed Sadat
and Hussein el-Shafei as his vice presidents. He had fallen out with a number of his associates
from the RCC days, such as Khaled and Zakaria Mohieddin and former Vice President Ali
Sabri. Having reconciled with Baghdadi, Nasser considered him as a replacement to Sadat.

Metamorphosis During the Sadat Era

Nasser¶s death due to a heart attack in September 1970 cut short his plans and brought Sadat to
power. It was under Sadat¶s rule that the major moves to separate the government from the
military took place. Initially, Sadat ran into a number of challenges, including the fact that he
lacked Nasser¶s stature and was opposed by those loyal to his predecessor both within the
military and the ruling ASU.

As a result, within the first three years Sadat had to get rid of two sets of senior regime leaders
² first, the Nasser loyalists, and then those he himself had brought to replace the pro-Nasser
elements. For example, he replaced his vice president, Sabri, with el-Shafei, whom he
eventually replaced with Mubarak in 1975. Sadat skillfully used the 1971 constitution and his
³Corrective Revolution´ to forge a new establishment. Like his predecessor, Sadat relied on the
military for his support and legitimacy. Unlike his predecessor, he went one step further by
playing the officer corps off each other. To this end, Sadat made full use of his presidential
powers and the weakening of the military during the end of the Nasser era.

While Sadat picked up on Nasser¶s move to separate the military from governance, he was also
making good use of Soviet assistance to rebuild the armed forces in preparation for another war
with Israel to reverse the 1967 outcome. Egypt¶s ³victory´ in the 1973 war with Israel greatly
contributed to Sadat¶s ability to establish his leadership credentials and bring the military under
his control.

The following year, he initiated the open-door economic policy, known in Arabic as ³infitah,´
which steered the country away from the Nasserite vision of a socialist economy and led to the
creation of a new economic elite loyal to Sadat. To further weaken the Nasserites and the left
wing, he also worked to eliminate the idea of a single-party system by calling for the creation
of separate platforms within the ASU for leftist, centrist and rightist forces.
As a result, the ASU weakened and was dissolved in 1978 and its members formed the NDP. In
addition to a new ruling party, Sadat allowed multiparty politics in 1976. Sadat also relaxed
curbs on the country¶s largest Islamist movement, the MB, allowing it to publish material and
carve out a limited space in civil society as part of his efforts to counter left-wing forces.

In sharp contrast with the Nasser era, when the government was heavy with serving military
officers, the Sadat era saw the creation of a new civilian elite consisting largely of ex-military
officers. The elimination of Nasser¶s allies, the rise of a new generation of military officers, and
the building of a relationship of trust between the serving and former military officers were key
factors in shaping a new order in which the military did not feel the need to rule the country

The 1967 defeat had weakened the military¶s position in the state, and there were concerns that
Nasser¶s death and Sadat¶s rise would force it to resort to extra-constitutional means to regain
power. A mix of purges and the relatively positive outcome of the 1973 war helped rehabilitate
the institution, which went a long way toward strengthening the relationship between the
presidency and the military.

By this time, Egypt had also switched sides in the Cold War, with Sadat establishing close
relations with the United States. The move led to the creation of a new generation of U.S.-
trained military officers. Even more important, U.S. President Jimmy Carter¶s administration
mediated a 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and its historic foe, Israel. That he faced no
opposition from within the military in recognizing the state of Israel ² still a controversial
move among wider Egyptian society ² underscores the extent to which Sadat had consolidated
his hold on power, and how much Egypt had drifted away from its Nasserist roots.

The 1978 peace treaty made the military more comfortable with its exclusion from government.
It did raise concerns about a reduction in the military budget, however, especially when Sadat¶s
economic policies were leading to the creation of a new civilian economic elite.

Sadat salved the military¶s concerns by giving it the freedom to engage in business enterprises.
While on one hand he promoted economic liberalization, allowing for the return of the private
sector, he also promulgated Law 32 in 1979, which gave the armed forces financial and
economic independence from the state. The military became heavily involved in the industrial
and service sectors, including weapons, electronics, consumer products, infrastructure
development, agribusinesses, aviation, tourism and security. According to the reasoning behind
the move, this would keep the military from draining state coffers. In fact, it did drain the
state¶s coffers via subsidies for the military¶s businesses.

In the 1980s, during the days of Defense Minister Mohamed Abu Ghazala, the military created
two key commercial entities: the National Services Projects Organization and the Egyptian
Organization for Industrial Development. It also created a variety of joint ventures with both
domestic and international manufacturing firms.

In addition to the enrichment of the military as an institution, senior officers have long
benefited in individual capacities through commissions on contracts involving hardware
procurement. Even in the political realm, the military was able to have its say. This especially
was true regarding succession, where Sadat appointed former air force chief Mubarak as his
vice president.

The strong links via institutional mechanisms and informal norms were key to stability: Retired
officers were able to run the show without having to worry about a coup. The political
leadership felt it needed to prevent the emergence of a new civilian elite, which it feared could
upset the relationship between the presidency and the military and thus increase the chances of
a coup.

From the military establishment¶s point of view, the new arrangement under Sadat was actually
better than the arrangement under Nasser. Under Sadat, the military did not have to shoulder
the responsibility of governance, but its interests in the government still were being looked
after by people from military backgrounds. This allowed the military to avoid the hassles of
governance and accountability for mistakes in governance and to maintain a democratic facade
for domestic and foreign consumption.

The military still could briefly intervene should the need arise, as during the 1977 bread riots,
when domestic law enforcement was unable to cope with unrest. The military was able to exact
a price for helping Sadat then, forcing him to do away with the austerity measures. Overall,
common origins, shared socialization, and academy and institutional experiences shaped a
collective worldview. This created tight links between the presidency and the military, paving
the way for the military to go into the background.

hnstitutionalization and Decline Under Mubarak

The changes that Sadat brought did not alter the reality that the military was embedded
throughout the fabric of state and society. Senior serving officers in the presidential staff and at
the Defense Ministry, governors in most provinces, and a parallel military judicial system
provided a structural mechanism through which the security establishment maintained a say in
policymaking. Even so, the move toward greater civilian political and economic space initiated
by Sadat went into effect under Mubarak.

As Sadat did when he first came to power, Mubarak engaged in limited reforms and expanded
on the process of developing institutions in an effort to consolidate the regime. The new
president freed political prisoners and allowed for a slightly freer press. During the 1980s,
Egypt also began having multiparty parliamentary elections in accordance with Law 40 enacted
by the Sadat government in 1977 allowing for the establishment of political parties.

While carefully developing political institutions, the regime under Mubarak began addressing
the presence of radical Islamist sympathizers in light of Sadat¶s assassination. Emergency laws
helped immensely to this end; they also helped the military preserve its clout at a time of
increasing civilianization of the regime.
While Mubarak sought to broaden his base of support, his government fought the two main
Islamist militant movements at the time, Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah. To do
this, the Mubarak government reached out to the country¶s main and moderate Islamist
movement, the MB. The need to work with the MB to combat jihadists, who, in assassinating
Sadat, had threatened the state, allowed the Islamist movement to expand.

The MB remained proscribed, preventing it from operating as a political entity. But the
Mubarak government allowed it to spread itself in civil society through academic and
professional syndicates as well nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in social
services. Elections also allowed the MB to enhance its public presence.

In the 1984 elections, the MB won 58 seats out of a total of 454 in a coalition with the Wafd
party, and in the 1987 polls, an MB alliance with the Labor and Liberal parties bagged 60 seats
with the MB getting 30, Labor securing 27 and Liberals three. The rise of opposition forces,
especially the MB, in the 1980s saw the regime institute new electoral laws in 1990. The
Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the mixed voting system was unconstitutional,
however, given that it did not allow for people to run as independents.

On its face, the judgment looked like it would help the opposition, freeing it from being bound
by lists and thresholds to securing its candidates¶ election. The way in which the NDP
implemented the new system, however, gave the ruling party an advantage through
redistricting. The outcome was a reduced presence of opposition parties in the legislature.

By 1992, the Algerian experiment with democracy had further scared the Mubarak government
about the risks of allowing multiparty polls. The Algerian elections almost saw a relatively new
Islamist movement, Front Islamique du Salut, secure a two-thirds majority in parliament. An
army intervention annulling the polls denied victory to the Algerian Islamists but sparked a
decade-long insurgency by more militant Islamist forces. From the point of view of the
Mubarak government, the MB was far more organized than Front Islamique du Salut, and
Egypt¶s jihadist movements were just as well established. This viewpoint received validation
from Gamaa al-Islamiyah attacks against the government.

Having political opponents operating within constitutional bounds served the military by
stabilizing the regime and giving it a democratic veneer. But the move to allow these forces to
create space had unintended consequences, namely the rise of the MB. The NDP could only go
so far in rigging the system in favor of the government, which meant the ruling party needed to
take steps to enhance its domestic standing.

While the Mubarak regime was toiling with how to have a democratic political system while
maintaining the ruling party¶s grip, it was also experimenting with economic liberalization.
There were efforts toward the privatization of state-owned enterprises in the mid-1990s. But
the army made it very clear that its holdings were off-limits to any such moves.

The economic liberalization and the need to bolster the ruling party allowed for the rise of a
younger generation of businessmen and politicians. Toward the end of the 1990s, Mubarak¶s
son Gamal was heading the Future Foundation, an NGO supported by pro-privatization
businessmen. Gamal floated the idea of founding a Future Party, but his father brought him into
the ruling party and Gamal still presided over the NGO.

The Gamal group included prominent businessmen Mohammed Abul-Einen and steel magnate
Ahmed Ezz. This new guard led by Gamal quickly rose through the ranks of the NDP, and by
February 2000, Gamal, Ezz and another key businessman, Ibrahim Kamel, became members of
the NDP¶s General Secretariat. Their entry immediately created a struggle between the
military-backed old guard and the business-supported rising elements within the NDP, given
that new voices had begun contributing to the policymaking process.

The 2000 parliamentary polls were a defining moment in the history of the NDP because of the
need to balance parliamentarian candidacies between the business community and the old
guard. Further complicating matters was a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that members
of the judiciary must oversee polling, which meant the usual electoral engineering would
become difficult to pull off. Gamal wanted younger candidates who could revitalize the party
and improve its public image, something rejected by old guard figures such as NDP Secretary-
General Youssef Wali and organizational secretaries Kalam al-Shazli and Safwat Sharif, who
later became secretary-general.

Eventually a compromise was reached in which some 42 percent of the NDP candidates were
from the rising elements, with as many as a hundred of them in the 30-40 years age bracket.
The party also benefited by the move of some 1,400 NDP members to run as independents, an
average of six per constituency. In the end, the opposition parties bagged only 38 seats, 17 for
the MB and the remaining 21 divided among the legal opposition parties.

While the struggle within the NDP actually benefited the ruling party on election day, it
reshaped the landscape of the party. Only 172 of the official NDP candidates (39 percent) won,
while another 181 NDP independents won, later joining the NDP. Another 35 genuine
independent members of parliament also joined the ruling party, giving the party a total of 388

Thus, for a time, the NDP was forced to rely on its members who had run as independents to
sustain its hold on the legislature. The outcome triggered an internal debate in which Gamal
was able to make the case that the party needed internal reforms and pressed for a meritocratic
method of candidate selection. Consequently, for the first Consultative Council polls and then
local council elections, the NDP formed caucuses that allowed party members to vote for

This new system further enhanced Gamal¶s stature within the party to the extent that he and
two of his allies, lawmaker Zakariya Azmi and Minister of Youth and Sports Ali Eddin Hilal,
were given membership in the NDP Steering Committee in 2002. This move brought parity
between the old guard and the rising elements in the six-member body. In the 2002 party
conference, Gamal was also appointed head of the party¶s new Policies Secretariat.
Additional business class parliamentarians such as Hossam Awad and Hossam Badrawi gained
entry into the NDP General Secretariat. In an election, 6,000 delegates voted in favor of
Gamal¶s agenda calling for technocratic reforms and economic liberalization, giving his faction
majority control of the NDP¶s central board. While the old guard under Sharif¶s leadership held
onto the post of secretary-general, the No. 2 position after Mubarak, Gamal¶s influence rivaled
that of Sharif.

Essentially, the need to revitalize the ruling party enabled a new generation of businessmen to
enter the political realm via the parliamentary vote. The rise of these elites was likely seen as
disturbing to the military-backed old guard, as it threatened their political and economic
interests. But it served the military¶s need to see the NDP sustain its hold on power in order to
ensure regime stability.

The Roots and Future of the Current Crisis

It did not take long for the situation to change, however. Sept. 11, the 2003 U.S. invasion of
Iraq, and the George W. Bush administration¶s push for democracy in the region complicated
matters for the regime. They forced Mubarak to focus on the home front, as opposition forces
became emboldened and sought to expand their presence.

Of all the opposition groups, the MB benefited most from this development, winning 88 seats
in the 2005 elections. For their part, secular opposition forces began organizing protests under
the banner of the Kifayah movement. The combined pressure forced Mubarak to permit a
multi-candidate presidential election, though arranged in such a fashion as to make it extremely
difficult for an opposition candidate to win.

Most significantly, these changes took place as the aging Mubarak¶s health rapidly failed.
Regime continuity post-Mubarak became the critical issue for the military and the old guard.
These elements did not accept Gamal, as he was seen as leading a group that might bring in a
new ruling elite. The old guard disagreed over who from within the regime would be best to
succeed Mubarak, in great part because Mubarak failed to appoint a vice president as his
predecessors had.

The internal struggle to succeed Mubarak intensified in recent years, especially in the past 18
months. The outbreak of popular protests in Egypt in the wake of the Tunisian unrest vastly
complicated this process. The military sought to channel these protests to its advantage to better
manage the transition from Mubarak. In the process, it had to engage in domestic security,
governance and managing a crisis for the first time since the early 1970s.

Now that Mubarak is out, a military-led provisional authority controlled by the Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces is in power for a six-month interim period. The military council is
composed of 18 generals and is chaired by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is
also the commander-in-chief of the military. It has moved to suspend the constitution but has
thus far not issued an interim legal framework order. Instead, it has appointed an eight-member
committee, headed by a renowned legal personality and including a representative of the MB,
to work on amendments to the constitution. The amendments will enable the holding of
competitive parliamentary and presidential elections, at which time the military council intends
to cancel the emergency law.

In addition to stabilizing the situation, a core intent behind the democratization of the political
system is the military¶s imperative to avoid regime change. The military will need a party
aligned with the establishment, especially since it still dominates the caretaker Cabinet, and this
is where the fate of the NDP is a significant factor. Besides, the military needs a political force
strong enough to counter the MB; however, strength is not just a function of party machinery
but also public support, which is where the NDP is seriously lacking.

The history of the modern Egyptian republic and its evolution in the past six decades provides
for a great deal of experience. The current crop of generals can use its experience to manage the
transition in a way that placates popular demands for a democratic political system while
maintaining the military¶s grip on power. There are numerous options for revamping the order
established in 1952, but none of them will be easy, as the current transition leaders¶
predecessors never faced such a robust popular demand for democracy. Regardless, Egypt has
essentially returned to the 1952-type situation in which there are only two organized forces in
the country, the MB and the military, and the country is in the hands of a provisional military

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