Reform in Egypt and the Islamic Brotherhood Party Research Paper

Pages: 12 (4063 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Government

Reform in Egypt and the Islamic Brotherhood Party

The purpose of this paper is to discuss Egypt as a democratic country and analyze the strength of their democracy in light of the recent boycotts done by opposition parties. A democracy is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is as, " a government by the people exercised either directly or through and by elected representatives." An effective democracy requires a strong system of law and legal principles implemented with impartiality. Favoritism towards one political party or another will weaken the basic foundation that democracy is built on. According to Sean Wilentz, "Democracy is nothing without the rule of law administered by and independent judiciary; yet it is also diminished and threatened when that rule favors one or more portions of the citizenry" (Wilentz). The system of democracy in Egypt is still in its developmental stages as the boycotts and other protests of recent elections demonstrate. This essay will uncover the hindrances as they relate to the Egyptian electoral process and propose how these obstacles can be improved for the future.

2. How Close is the Egyptian Electoral System to Democracy?

Egypt's current electoral system is a system that holds elections for political office but historically the democratic process had been obstructed. For example in 2005, Egypt held its first multi-candidate Presidential election (Sharp 1).

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President Hosni Mubarak was elected with 88% of the vote, and many alleged that corruption had taken place (Sharp 5). A significant factor stimulating the controversy was that in recent years Mubarak had run in uncontested elections and each time winning the elections by a majority vote. Within the last four elections, an uncontested Mubarak had received anywhere between 93% and 98% of the votes (Sharp 1). With these results, Egypt's system of democracy appeared to be developing far behind other Arab countries such as Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Sharp 1).

Research Paper on Reform in Egypt and the Islamic Brotherhood Party Assignment

Considering that the Constitutional Amendment to Article 76 to allow multi-candidate elections was proposed by Mubarak, the presumption would be that this was a positive step towards the development of the Egyptian democratic process, since each of the previous elections had been uncontested. However, there was one caveat -- the Amendment did not permit any candidate to just appear on the ballot with a showing of support by the voters. The Amendment required that in order for independent candidates to run for election, the candidate had to receive a minimum of 250 supporting votes from elected politicians drawn from the People's Assembly, the Shura Council (upper house), and the provincial councils (Sharp 2).

Many argued that this requirement prevented the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are independent candidates, from running for office (Sharp 2). The overall effect that the Amendment had on the ability of the independent candidate to run was a negative one. Moreover, the principle of favoritism that will hinder a democracy was present with implementation of this Amendment and the possibility of change through the Amendment was restricted.

The restrictions on the independent party to run were not the only party that the Amendment place restrictions on. In the 2005 election, candidates representing opposing that are legally recognized parties were required to be a member of their party's leadership (Sharp 2).

For future elections, a member of a legally recognized opposing party would be required to be licensed for the five years preceding the election and would be required to show at least a 5% support from members of the upper and lower houses of parliament (Sharp 1). In addition, the Presidential Electoral Commission (PEC) was implemented to supervise the electoral process. Fifty percent of the PEC was elected by parliament and its members were comprised of former judges and other public officials (Sharp 1). The PEC was the central agent in the electoral process as they have the power to approve or deny nominations, supervise elections procedures, and tally the final results which is final and not subject to appeal (Sharp 1).

The implementation of the PEC drew much controversy regarding the Egyptian electoral process. Many critics argued that power that the PEC could ultimately placed the organization above the law (Sharp 1). The discord was that critics believed that the PEC had the power to approve or disapprove a candidate that had previously satisfied the initial requirements to run in an election. Furthermore, the fact that the PEC could approve or disapprove the final results without being subject to approval troubled critics since the people ultimately did not have the final vote in the electoral process.

As these facts demonstrate, the democratic process in Egypt despite the fact that it is now a multi-candidate process, is not without its flaws. The Amendment to Article 76 of the Constitution that opened the process up to other candidates at the same time placed restrictions on the other candidates before they could appear on the ballot. While restrictions and preliminary requirements are to be expected, those that unreasonably burden the candidate's likelihood of appearing on the ballot are suspect. Furthermore, the implementation of the FEC to review the entire process and vote to approve it, adds an element to the process that detracts from its functioning effectively as a democracy.

So how close is the Egyptian election system to democracy? The answer to this question is a relative one, but here is no doubt that the Egyptian system has a long journey before they attain a healthy democratic system. There is always a risk of corruption when a single person has been in power for an extended period of time such as Mubarak has. The risk is one that results from the power of the people to vote on removing or retaining their leader in despite the ability to cast their votes -- the power that their votes have. Egypt has an electoral and system where votes are cast in favor of a candidate, but Mubarak has been in office for over 28 years (Associated Press). It begs the question as to whether the people have voted the same man to the same position for over 28 years. A fair system of democracy will never permit a single person to remain in office for over 28 years if it is contrary to the will of the voters for such is contrary to what a system of democracy represents.

3. Who Is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a political group in Egypt whose standing in elections is that of an independent party (Sharp 2). The Brotherhood began was founded in 1928 in Isma'iliya Egypt by Hassan al-Banna as a social organization (Mohammed and Medley, 693). Over the next 10 years, the Brotherhood become more actively involved in politics and took strong opposition to British presence in Egyptian government and eventually began a violent movement against the British presence (Calasanti 3). Ultimately the Egyptian government disbanded the Brotherhood and imprisoned many of its members in 1949 (Calasanti 3).

Over the next 20 years, political tension continued between the Brotherhood and Egypt which included an assassination attempt of the President by the brotherhood (Calasanti 4). Thousands members of the Brotherhood were arrested and some were executed (Calasanti 4). These tensions between the Brotherhood and the government would persist; ultimately the founder of the Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, faced assassination by the government (Calasanti, 17). The current regime renounced violence as a political approach in the 1970s (Arrott).

The goal of the Brotherhood through its actions was a re-Islamization of society (Calasanti, 11). Today, the Brotherhood has become known as an organization that supports democracy as a political institution and has been frequently interpreted as a moderate non-violent organization (Calasanti, 15). Over the years, the Brotherhood has won the favor of the public and been elected to many Parliamentary seats in Egypt (Calasanti, 17). The response from the government has been less favorable -- it has officially dismantled the Brotherhood as a political party in opposition (Calasanti, 17).

Despite its disbandment, the Brotherhood has remained a strong political presence in the elections processes in Egypt. In 2005, the Brotherhood won at least 76 seats and was on pace to control 20%-25% of the total Parliament in Egypt which was at that time 454 members (Otterman). The Brotherhood, who had been officially banned as a political group since 1954, was permitted to participate in the 2005 elections and won a strong favoring (Otterman). This demonstrated that the Brotherhood still maintained a strong political following among the public despite the extreme opposition by the government. However, the obstacles that the Brotherhood had faced would resurface again in the 2010 elections.

In October 2010, it was reported that over 70 members of the Brotherhood had been arrested (Arrott). The arrest took place approximately one month prior to the 2010 election that was set to take place on November 24, 2010. The arrest of the 70 members brought the total to approximately 250 members of the Organization who had been arrested… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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