Egypt, like many African countries, has been dominated by a series of semi legitimate strong man leaders who have suppressed free speech and claimed authoritarian powers in order to control the country and its populace. These leaders have varied greatly in their foreign policies, even doing a complete Cold War flip from supporting the USSR to allying themselves with the US, making international relations with Egypt complicated and unreliable. Egypt had a difficult time establishing a stable government following its independence in 1953. The government, which is theoretically run by a president working in tandem with a prime minister and parliament, has been dominated by authoritarian dictators claiming to be legitimate presidents since the country’s founding.
President Gamal Nasser seized power in 1954 following the success of his independence movement in 1952. Nasser aligned himself with the USSR during the cold war, a stance that would be reversed by his successor. President Anwar Sadat rose to the presidency after Nasser’s death in 1970. Sadat’s foreign policy in the Cold War was in stark contrast to Nasser’s, as he promptly aligned Egypt with the US once he gained office and began enforcing secular, more liberal policies. Violence and unrest are unfortunately not uncommon occurrences in Egyptian politics. In 1981Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists opposed to his secular policies.
Hosni Mubarak rose to power after Sadat’s brutal murder and immediately began to crack down further on media groups and opposition leaders. Islamist terrorist groups continued to devastate the country throughout Mubarak’s reign. He managed to maintain relative stability until 2003 when the popular Kefaya movement began to strongly demand more democratic measures and civil liberties. This movement rapidly gained power and in 2011 began a success protest of Mubarak’s regime, forcing him to resign in the face of mass public demonstrations.
Egypt has been experiencing a turbulent political atmosphere since the 2011 Egyptian Revolution ousted long term President Hosni Mubarak. After the election the military acted as the moderator until a president could be elected. Despite serious concerns, the military did not take power for itself after the 2011 revolution, instead setting up Egypt’s first ever legitimate presidential election. Mohammad Morsi, a candidate with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first legitimate Egyptian president following the election. However, Morsi soon displayed many of the qualities of his authoritarian predecessors, assuming numerous unprecedented powers and installing a cabal of Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Violent mass protests followed Morsi’s new policies, leading to bloody riots in Cairo’s streets. The military once again interceded and deposed Morsi. Justice Mansour was briefly put into power by the military as an interim president. The leader of the military, Fattah al-Sisi, claimed power in 2014. He outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and began drawing up a new constitution but has not made clear when or if he intends to peacefully transition power.
Neo-patrimonialism has been a defining feature throughout essentially all of Egypt’s various regimes. The authoritarian leaders needed as much support as they could get from the bureaucracy and military and as such gave financial incentives and positions of power to those willing to obey them. One of the most pervasive forms of corruption in Egypt is the government toleration of a system of bribery used to extort citizens. A bribe is necessary to accomplish almost anything involving the Egyptian government, from obtaining a business license to getting into a public university.