North Africa

History of Egypt Part 5

Political radicalization

President Nasser set about Egypt’s economic course toward greater state participation. Foreign investment was nationalized, as was the National Bank and other parts of the financial sector. In the countryside, measures were taken to promote cooperative agriculture. This radicalization, in the direction of ‘Arab socialism’, gained support among the Egyptian masses and reverberated in much of the Arab world. Egypt under Nasser became a source of inspiration for opposition and popular movements in much of the Arab world, and Egypt became the regional superpower – which also led an active foreign policy, both globally and regionally.

President Anwar al-Sadat

In 1957, the National Union was formed as the only permissible party in Egypt; in 1962 transformed into the Arab Socialist Union. In the same year, a program was developed for the development of Egypt according to socialist principles.

Parallel to the Soviet Union’s foreign policy reorientation against the United States, Sadat made a political and economic change at home. He introduced a liberal economic policy (infitah), which, among other things, invited foreign investment in business and greater private participation.

After the death of President Nasser, and under al-Sadat’s regime, a new political course change. al-Sadat began a process of multi-party governance, and in 1977 several parties were again allowed. In 1976, he was re-elected for a new six-year term, and in 1978 Nasser’s Socialist Union was effectively dissolved by being merged with Sadat’s newly formed power platform, the National Democratic Party (Hizb al-Dimuqratiyah al-Wataniyah, NDP). The goal of the democratization process was to liberalize Egyptian social life, but also to create a power base for Sadat himself, and to attract financial support from the West.

In the economic sphere there was also liberalization, but partly because of high population growth and lack of land and labor, the social conditions of the masses deteriorated. In 1975 there were riots in Cairo, in protest of the high cost of living and high inflation. When al-Sadat, in 1977, tried to reduce the large government subsidies on some foods, which since the time of Nasser had been a safety valve to reduce poverty, came to violent riots, and he was forced to reverse the decision.

Pan-Arabism

Egypt and Syria signed a defense agreement in 1955. On February 1, 1958, Egypt and Syria joined the United Arab Republic, (United Arab Republic, UAR) with Nasser as president. An invitation was made to other Arab states to join, but only (Northern) Yemen entered into a loose association under the name United Arab States, which then dissolved in 1961. By that time Syria had withdrawn from the UAR that same year. Following the coup in Yemen in 1962, Egypt engaged in the civil war there and had at most 70,000 soldiers in the country. After a military coup in September 1961, Syria withdrew from the union with Egypt.

In 1970, Egypt, Sudan and Libya agreed to enter into a new union, but Sudan withdrew and was replaced in 1971 with Syria. In 1971, a new constitution was passed and the country’s name changed to the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Great Power politics

In 1972, relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated as Sadat expelled Soviet military advisers and experts. One of the reasons for the partial breach was that Egypt believed the Soviet Union was training the supply of weapons at a time when Sadat was under political pressure to go to war against Israel.

Following the peace agreement with Israel, Egypt became one of the largest recipients of military and other assistance from the United States.

A brief historical overview

Year Event
30 BCE Egypt becomes a Roman province
395 AD By the division of the Roman Empire, Egypt comes under the Byzantine Empire
641 The Arabs occupy the country
969-1171 The Fatimid caliphs have their seat in Egypt
1171-1250 The Ayyubid dynasty reigns
1250-1517 Egypt is ruled by the Mamluks
1517 Egypt becomes a Turkish province
1798-1800 France keeps Egypt occupied
1869 The Suez Canal opens
1882 Britain occupies Egypt and secures full control over the Suez Canal
1914 Egypt becomes British protectorate
1922 Egypt becomes an independent kingdom
1952 King Farouk 1 is ruled, and Egypt becomes a republic the following year
1956 The Suez Canal is being nationalized. The UN intervenes in a British-French-Israeli military action (the Suez crisis). The UNEF peacekeeping force is deployed in Gaza and Sinai.
1958-1961 Egypt is in union with Syria and Yemen (United Arab Republic)
1967 Israel occupies Gaza and Sinai (Six Day War).
1970 Old Abdel Nasser dies; followed by Anwar al-Sadat. The Aswan Dam is finished.
1973 Egypt goes to war against Israel (October war).
1974 Israel agrees to withdraw its forces from the Suez Canal.
1975 The Suez Canal is reopened
1977 Sadat visits Israel. Bilateral negotiations are initiated.
1978 The Camp David agreement with Israel is signed.
1979 Peace agreement with Israel is signed. Egypt is excluded from the Arab League.
1981 President Sadat is murdered; followed by Hosni Mubarak.
1982 Israel returns the last occupied territories in Sinai. The MFO Peace Force is deployed in Sinai.
1980s Large population growth and high unemployment contribute to unstable social conditions. against high food prices.
1988 Egypt is resumed in the Arab League.
1991 Through its efforts in the Gulf War and the Middle East peace negotiations, Egypt regains its lost in the Arab world.
1990s Muslim fundamentalists are attacking to hit Egypt’s tourism industry, and thus the country’s economy and government.
2011 Popular uprising against the regime during the Arab Spring. President Mubarak is forced to step down.
2012 Mohamed Morsi is elected president.
2013 Morsi is forced to step down after new uprisings. The military leadership takes control of the country.
2014 Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is elected new president.
2018 Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is re-elected president.