The king was overthrown by a group of
officers in a bloody coup in 1952 and Egypt became a
military dictatorship with socialist signs. Anwar
al-Sadat, who became president in 1970, abolished the
one-party state, but the regime remained authoritarian.
After losing several wars against Israel, Egypt in 1978
made peace with the arch enemy, as the first Arab
country. It was rejected by Islamists who assassinated
Sadat in 1981. Under successor Hosni Mubarak, a
low-intensity conflict with Islamists continued, while
the economy was liberalized. Mubarak was driven from
power in 2011 and 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood won the
first free elections in Egypt.
Following the defeat of the Arab states in the war
against the newly formed state of Israel in 1948–1949,
the underground group of Free Officers was formed under
the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser (Jamal Abd al-Nasir).
The officers had no common ideology - some were
Marxists, some sympathized with the Muslim Brotherhood -
but they wanted to liberate Egypt from British
domination and create a more just society. The Free
Officers carried out a coup in 1952, King Faruq was
deposed and in 1953 a republic was proclaimed. All
parties disbanded and in practice Egypt became a
military dictatorship. Brotherhood was banned in 1954.
Nasser was elected president in 1956.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Egypt. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The same year, the last British troops left the Suez
Canal, and shortly thereafter Nasser announced that the
English-French canal company would be nationalized. One
of the thoughts was that revenues from ship traffic
would be used to finance a large dam construction in the
Nile in order to expand Egypt's electricity grid, while
controlling the Nile's recurring floods.
The message of nationalization of the Suez Canal
prompted Britain, France and Israel to attack, but they
soon withdrew after harsh criticism from the US, the
Soviet Union and the UN. The Suez crisis in the autumn
of 1956 meant a triumph for Nasser, who achieved the
goal of independence from British and French control.
Instead, dependence on the Soviet Union increased.
Egypt had started to buy weapons from the eastern states
and Nasser turned to Moscow when the West did not want
to lend for the construction of the mighty Assuan Dam,
which began in 1959. The dam that would provide
electricity and more stable water access to agriculture
was ready in 1970.
Arab nationalist leader
In the early 1960s, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU)
was created as the only permissible political party. A
second land reform was implemented and Nasser's policies
deprived the old upper class of power and influence.
Instead, a new privileged class emerged in a sweltering
state and military bureaucracy.
With his active foreign policy, Nasser emerged as the
leader of Arab nationalism. He became a unifying force
in the conflict with Israel. Nasser's politics attracted
tremendous response in the Arab world and also gave him
prestige within the Third World and the Alliance Free
Movement, which Nasser co-founded. The pursuit of Arab
unity, panarabism, led to several union attempts with
Syria and Libya, among others, which failed.
The defeat of Israel in the 1967 Six Day War (see
Foreign Policy and Defense) shook Nasser's position.
Purges in the military followed, but workers and
students demanded Nasser's departure and democratization
Sadat takes over
1970 Nasser passed away. He was succeeded by Anwar
al-Sadat, also a member of the Free Officers. Sadat
paved the way for a permanent constitution that
increased legal certainty, and in 1978 multi-party
systems were introduced. Sadat formed the National
Democratic Party (NDP), which replaced the former
government party ASU and in practice retained the
monopoly of power. He also approached Egypt with the
United States and in 1981, relations with the Soviet
Union were severed.
The initially successful October war against Israel
in 1973 (see Foreign Policy and Defense) strengthened
Sadat's position and helped him to assert his own line,
which was different from Nassers. For Sadat, Egyptian
nationalism came before the Pan-Arabian. He wanted to
solve Egypt's difficult economic problems by encouraging
investment from the West and strengthening the private
But rapid Population growth, widespread poverty, high
unemployment and low productivity plagued Egypt. The new
economic policy favored a small group and widened the
gaps when the prices of basic commodities were raised as
a result of the World Bank's conditions for granting
loans. Riots and famine shook the regime in 1977.
Nor did the peace with Israel from 1978 to 1979 (see
Foreign Policy and Defense) lead to improved economy as
promised. Support for the Muslim opposition increased.
Sadat is murdered
Sadat tried to appease the Islamists and in 1980 a
constitutional amendment was adopted which stated that
Islamic law, sharia, would form the basis of all
legislation. But the reforms were not comprehensive
enough for Sadat's critics. Opposition grew, especially
among students. Armed groups were formed with demands
for an Islamic state. In October 1981, Sadat was
assassinated by Islamist extremists from the al-Jihad
Sadat's successor Hosni Mubarak sought to choose a
middle ground between Nasser's and Sadat's lines and
promised both continuity and reform. "Democracy" and
"dialogue" became words of honor. Both press and
political debate were initially given increased freedom
and opposites were released from prisons.
However, Mubarak never let the political opposition
threaten his own position. The state of emergency
introduced after the murder of Sadat was constantly
renewed, citing terrorist threats and the need for
stability. The underground armed opposition grew,
including through the Islamic Group (al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya).
Terrorism against security forces, foreign tourists and
Christian Egyptians increased. The regime responded with
merciless disbelief in the pursuit of terrorists.
Thousands of people were arrested, tortured, tried
before a military court, given defective trials or held
The goal of the Islamists was to overthrow the
regime, which they considered godless and US-friendly,
and to establish an Islamic state. Mubarak's policy of
deregulation and privatization of the old centralized
economy led to increased unemployment and widening class
divisions. It strengthened the breeding ground for
radical Islamists, who themselves tackled social
problems through their own schools and clinics in
metropolitan slums and in poor rural areas.
In Luxor in 1997, some 70 people were murdered, many
of them foreign tourists. The regime responded with mass
arrests, death sentences and increased control of the
mosques, where armed groups often retrieved their
The Islamic group decided in 1999 to lay down arms
and move into political struggle. The ceasefire was a
victory for the regime, which released a thousand
members of the group. At the same time, several
Islamists were sentenced to death and many received long
In the 1990s, a total of about 1,500 people were
killed in assaults and fighting. About 30,000 radical
Islamists were jailed, although most were soon released.
The fight against terror weakened the democratic
Human rights activists, opposition politicians and
intellectuals formed a committee that called for an end
to the state of emergency, the release of political
prisoners, free elections and free party formation. The
committee eventually came to lead a growing protest
But President Mubarak's and the NDP's strong hold on
power hardened after the terrorist attacks in the United
States on September 11, 2001. The regime was accused of
exploiting the international fight against terrorism to
fight opposition Islamists in Egypt.
At the same time, the regime became increasingly
difficult to deal with the growing protest movement,
which also condemned Egypt's relations with Israel.
Several illegal committees emerged in collaboration
between Arab nationalists, Marxists, Islamists,
intellectuals and others. US plans for military
intervention in Iraq were condemned in street
demonstrations that followed Friday prayers at Cairo's
The Iraq war, which started in March 2003, became the
trigger for a more daring opposition to Mubarak's
support for the US and US support for Israel, but also
against unemployment, poverty, corruption and the state
of emergency. Now Mubarak's departure and free elections
were openly demanded. A wave of arrests took place and
was followed by testimony of torture.
President Mubarak was forced into a very difficult
political balance. In 2003, more than 2,000 prisoners
were released, including many members of the Islamic
group whose leaders have renounced violence and
condemned the murder of Sadat.
Following a government reform in 2004, a series of
economic reforms were implemented, followed by proposals
for prudent reforms in the political sphere as well.
Among other things, Mubarak suggested that more than one
candidate should be allowed in the presidential
election. The demand for several candidates had been
driven by the new movement Kifaya (The expression
corresponds to "Now it is enough" or "Now it must be
enough" in Swedish.) That gathered leftists, liberals
and moderate Islamists. Kifaya inspired the forbidden
Muslim Brotherhood to become less cautious and openly
demand real political reform.
After a few years of relatively calm, Egypt suffered
a series of acts of terror in 2004-2006 partly aimed at
tourists on the Sinai Peninsula. In the bloodiest deed,
about 70 people died when three suicide bombers struck
in Sharm el-Sheikh seaside resort in 2005. Many
suspected terrorists were arrested.
The 2005 presidential election was the first with
more than one candidate. The competition forced the now
77-year-old Mubarak into more open debate, but his
position was hardly threatened. According to official
data, Mubarak won 89 percent of the vote. The opposition
claimed that cheating has occurred.
Ahead of the parliamentary elections a few months
later, more open criticism of the regime was allowed
than before. The fraternity, the largest opposition
force, for the first time appeared openly and stood with
independent candidates. Many dissatisfied NDP members
also participated as independents. The result was that
the NDP declined significantly, even though the party
still received close to 70 percent of the mandate. The
Brotherhood's supporters received almost 20 percent. The
success of the Brotherhood contributed to the regime's
repression against the opposition.
In the spring of 2010, the Peace Prize Laureate and
former Director General of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, founded a new
umbrella organization for opposition groups, the
National Movement for Change.
Ahead of the November – December parliamentary
elections, more than 1,000 members of the Muslim
Brotherhood were reported to have been arrested. There
were unrest, including between security forces and the
Brotherhood. Gradually, both ElBaradei's group and the
Brotherhood and several others decided to boycott the
election. The NDP won big, but the opposition and
independent observers considered cheating to happen.
Mubarak is overthrown
Then followed the revolution in 2011. Few had
predicted the dramatic development, despite the apparent
frustration over rigged elections, abuse of power and
oppression, and corruption and widespread unemployment.
The mainly young, secular and often well-educated
Egyptians who organized the first protests had already
formed networks. They had organized campaigns against
corruption, inequality, police brutality and the
regime's power monopoly, largely through social media.
The upheaval began on January 25, when thousands of
Egyptians gathered for a demonstration in Cairo,
inspired by the popular uprising that just forced the
Tunisian president to flee his country. The protesters
demanded Mubarak's departure, and stayed on the Tahrir
Square - the Liberation Square - for the following days.
Islamist groups and the established opposition joined.
Soon, millions of Egyptians from all walks of life
participated in demonstrations across the country.
The regime tried to stop the protests with a mix of
threats, violence and promises, but the demonstrations
only grew. Hundreds were killed in clashes and thousands
were arrested. After almost three dramatic weeks when
Tahrir Square was in focus, Mubarak resigned on February
A military council headed by Field Marshal Hussein
Tantawi took power. Mubarak's old power organization NDP
was dissolved. The Brotherhood was allowed to operate
freely and formed a new moderate Islamist party, the
Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Many new parties
Initially, the military council had popular support,
but the impatience soon grew. The military was accused
of violating human rights, persecuting regime critics
and igniting contradictions between Muslims and
Christians. More and more people felt that the old
regime remained, though without Mubarak. From the summer
of 2011, protesters gathered repeatedly at Tahrir
Parliamentary and presidential elections
In November, elections for a new parliament began.
The elections were held several times in January. The
largest was an alliance dominated by the FJP, with
nearly half the votes, and second largest was the more
extreme Salafist party al-Nur, which got around a
Presidential elections were held in May and June. In
the second round, FJP candidate Muhammad Mursi was
opposed to a former minister in Mubarak's regime. Mursi
won the election, with close to 52 percent of the vote.
The Islamists' big victory at the ballot boxes was
quite unexpected. Among the predominantly secular
middle-class groups that have been at the forefront of
the revolution, concerns about what would happen if
ultra-conservative religious forces now took power.
Others felt that the success of the Islamic parties
reflected the desire of the majority for a socially
conservative society based on religion - at the same
time as citizens wanted increased economic equality,
representation and a functioning rule of law.
Power struggle with the military
The old establishment was also troubled by the
success of the Islamists. The Constitutional Court
unexpectedly annulled the parliamentary election. The
Military Council declared Parliament dissolved and took
the legislative power itself. The Council also took
control of the state budget and gave itself the right to
decide who would draft a new constitution.
Mursi in turn chose to challenge the military.
Immediately after his accession on June 30, 2012, he
called the dissolved parliament for a brief meeting. In
August, he rescinded the declaration of the military and
allowed the senior military chiefs to retire. In doing
so, Mursi greatly cuts the military's long-standing
influence and unified power in his own hand.
When Mursi went ahead and via decree sat over even
the judicial system protests erupted and the judiciary
threatened with strike.
New basis is assumed
The decree meant that a proposal for a new
constitution could be presented, without the risk of
being stopped in court. Mursi quickly announced a
referendum on the constitutional proposal. The riots and
protests continued, from liberal, non-religious and
Christian groups who considered the new constitution to
be too Islamic. Nearly two-thirds of voters supported
the proposal when the referendum was conducted in
December 2012, but turnout was low: 33 percent.
The noises became increasingly irreconcilable.
Violence increased in connection with the two-year
anniversary of the revolution in January 2013. In
February, the government announced that new elections to
Parliament would be held in the spring. But the election
was stopped by a court on the grounds that the electoral
law was not properly adopted.
In the spring, protests against Mursi's rule
escalated. In connection with the one-year anniversary
of his entry, the demonstrations grew until millions of
Egyptians were out on the streets. Many accused the
Brotherhood of hijacking the revolution and using their
electoral victories to initiate Islamization of society.
Eventually, the military intervened and on July 3, 2013,
Mursi was deposed in a coup.