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It Just Looks Like a Party

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Abstract

Sadat did not begin with a detailed blueprint for a multiparty system. He arrived there via a domestic power struggle as well as powerful foreign policy pressures. Domestically, what concerned Sadat most was ‘Ali Sabri’s group, the most powerful men of the ASU. Regarding foreign policy pressures, Sadat’s desire to end the Arab-Israeli conflict encouraged him to improve his relationship with the United States— convinced as he was that it held essentially all of the negotiating cards. These pressures forced Sadat into two dramatic changes. First, he adopted infitah (the open door policy); and second, he created a multiparty political system. He sought to consolidate his power, dismantle any challengers, and create his own elite to replace Nasser’s. Like Nasser, Sadat did not want to reform the existing organization—he disbanded and created it anew. The political and economic reforms were engineered to be theatrical, however, and they were nothing more than a functionalistic multiparty system. These functionalist changes were, in fact, Sadat’s “New Deal.”

Keywords

Foreign Policy Political Reform Opposition Parti Open Door Policy Political Liberalization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Kirk Beattie, Egypt Under the Sadat Years (New York: Palgrave, First Published, 2000): 34–35.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Cooper, Mark, ‘The Transformation of Egypt (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982): 68.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Hinnebusch, Jr., Raymond, Egyptian Politics Under Sadat: The Post-Populist Development of an Authoritarian-Modernizing State (Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Updated Edition, 1988): 88.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Egypt has known political pluralism in its modern version since the turn of this century. The turmoil of the First World War in 1914, however, interrupted party politics when Britain declared Egypt a British protectorate. Party politics were not resumed until 1923 with the establishment of Egypt’s first modern constitution and the creation of numerous political parties. This period, which lasted for some thirty years and came to be called the “semi-liberal era,” was brought to an abrupt end by the military coup of July 23, 1952. See for more details, Zaki Moheb, Civil Society & Democratization in Egypt, 1981–1994 (Cairo: The Ibn Khaldoun Center & Konrad Adenauer-Stifung, 1994): 75–76.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    According to Professor Roger Owen, the recent retreat from state-centered policies and move toward more open economic and/or political systems in various countries in the Middle East are primarily due to the economic difficulties of the late 1970s and the early 1980s. In this respect, the Egypt economy was stagnant, growth having fallen to perhaps 1 percent by 1974 while, in good part because of defense burdens, average private consumption was actually around 7 percent lower than the consumption a decade earlier. The country labored under a staggering debt load, estimated at $4 billion to $10 billion, and the 1974 debt service absorbed 40 percent of the earnings on exports. See Ellis Goldberg, Resat Kasaba, and Joel Migdal, “Introduction,” in Ellis Goldberg, Resat Kasaba, and Joel Migdal (eds.), Rules and Rights in the Middle East: Democracy, Law, and Society (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993): 3–14Google Scholar
  6. 24.
    Eberhard Kienle, A Grand Delusion Democracy and Economic Reform in Egypt (London: Tauris, 2000): 24.Google Scholar
  7. 27.
    See El-Mikawy Noha, The Building of Consensus in Egypt’s Transition Process (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1999): 64–66.Google Scholar
  8. 32.
    Ilyas al-Ayyubi, in his book (The Age of Ismail), mentions that in the first session of the parliamentary council formed in 1866, Sharif Pasha, minister of the interior, delivered a speech to the representatives, in which he said that European parliaments are always divided into two parties: one that supports the government and one that opposes it. This being the case, they ought to divide themselves likewise into two parties, one with the government and one against it. The men of the government party would sit to the right and those of the opposition would sit to the left, he said. Hearing this, the representatives all hurried to take their seats to the right, shouting, “we are all the salves of our Effendi (the khedive), and so how could we be in opposition to his government!!” See Amin Husayn Ahmad, “The crisis of the individual in Egypt,” in Saghie Hazim, The Predicament of the Individual in the Middle East (London: Saqi Books, 2001): 60–80Google Scholar
  9. 33.
    Kassem, May, In the Guise of Democracy: Governance in Contemporary Egypt (Reading: Ithaca Press, First Edition 1999), 42.Google Scholar
  10. 34.
    Mona Makram-Ebeid, Political Opposition in Egypt: Democratic Myth or Reality? The Middle East Journal 43, no. 3 (Summer 1989): 428.Google Scholar
  11. 38.
    Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, Mobilizing Islam: Religion, Activism, and Political Change in Egypt (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002): 66–67.Google Scholar
  12. 43.
    Roger Owen, “Socio-Economic Change and Political Mobilization: The Case of Egypt, 183–199,” in Ghassan Salamé (ed.), Democracy Without Democrats: The Renewal of Politics in the Muslim World (London and New York: I. B. Tauris Publishers, 2001): 185.Google Scholar
  13. 44.
    Samuel Huntington argues that the world began to experience a “third wave of democratization” in the mid-1970s, with its first visible result being the collapse of Portugal’s then dictatorship (the first two waves came in the early nineteenth century and just after the Second World War). The collapse of the Soviet Union led to many of its component and satellite states gaining full or partial democracy (though not those in Central Asia). Much of Latin America had gone from dictatorship to democracy during that time, with the notable exception of Cuba. See Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization on the Late Twentieth Century (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  14. 46.
    The term “semi-authoritarian” was set forth and popularized by Marina Ottaway to denote these hybrid regimes because labels that include the word democracy are not adequate to capture their defining feature, namely, their deliberately designed character. Semi-authoritarian regimes are not failed democracies or democracies in transition; rather, they are carefully constructed and maintained alternative systems. If semi-authoritarian governments had their way, the system would never change. Egypt has developed a particularly resilient, almost institutionalized, semi-authoritarianism that has already lasted more than twenty years and even survived the transition from the presidency of Anwar Sadat to that of Mubarak. However, some semi-authoritarian countries fall close to the authoritarian end, such as Egypt, and there are others that are closer to the democratic end. See, for more details, Marina Ottaway, Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003): 7–10.Google Scholar
  15. Carl Gershman and Michael Allen, “New Threats to Freedom: The Assault on Democracy Assistance,” Journal of Democracy 17, no. 2 (April 2006): 36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Alaa Al-Din Arafat 2009

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