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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Egypt: Transition under Military Rule

Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

On January 25, 2011, Egyptians began 18 days of mass protests that eventually drove President Hosni Mubarak to resign from the presidency after 29 years in power. In the wake of Mubarak’s resignation, a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)—made up entirely of military officers who enjoyed leading positions under Mubarak—has exercised executive authority directly and via an interim cabinet. The SCAF oversaw a March 2011 referendum that approved amendments to Egypt’s constitution, and also issued new laws on the formation of political parties and the conduct of parliamentary elections. The amended constitution laid out a transitional framework in which the elected People’s Assembly and Shura Council, in conjunction with the SCAF, were to select members for a 100-person Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution subject to a referendum.

Legislative elections held in late 2011 and early 2012 granted significant majorities to Islamist political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party. The SCAF and various non-Islamist forces challenged the legislature’s efforts to select members for the Constituent Assembly, and a court ruling found the legislative electoral law unconstitutional, putting the recent election results and the future of the Islamist-dominated parliament in doubt. As polls closed for the final round of Egypt’s June 2012 presidential election, the SCAF issued further amendments to the transitional constitution, granting itself sweeping powers to appoint members of the Constituent Assembly, enforce martial law, and remain immune from oversight by the newly elected president. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi has claimed victory in the poll.

This report provides a brief overview of the transition thus far and information on U.S. foreign aid to Egypt. The United States has provided significant military and economic assistance to Egypt since the late 1970s. U.S. policy makers have routinely justified aid to Egypt as an investment in regional stability, built primarily on long-running military cooperation and on sustaining the March 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Successive U.S. Administrations have viewed Egypt’s government as generally influencing developments in the Middle East in line with U.S. interests. U.S. policy makers are now grappling with complex questions about the future of U.S.-Egypt relations, and these debates and events in Egypt are shaping consideration of appropriations and authorization legislation in the 112th Congress.

Date of Report: June 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: RL33003
Price: $29.95

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