Working of parliamentary institutions in Egypt 1924-1952
El-Khatib, M. F.
The foregoing study shows that the parliamentary system, as it
functioned in Egypt between 1924 and 1952, was not a success. This
failure was due to various inter-related factors.
In spite of the fact that prior to the introduction of the
parliamentary system in 1924, semi- parliamentary government had been
found in Egypt, the democratic concept as emphasised by the 1923
Constitution was rather an advanced system in view of the political
comprehension of the people and their social and economic conditions.
The introduction of the parliamentary system in Egypt was the
ultimate result of the 1919 Revolt. But this Revolt flared up with
the aim of ridding the country of the British Occupation and without
any conception whatever of the system of government to be applied in
Egypt after the achievement of the objective of the Revolt. Accepting
these facts, as well as the fact that the Revolt was an expression
of the Egyptian national spirit, the failure of the 1919 Revolt is
Instead of the struggle for the independence of Egypt being
continued, a parliamentary system was imported from Europe.
Democracy, which has developed and flourished in the West, is not
a political doctrine for exportation to other countries. That system,
in order to be successful, should evolve and develop within the
community to which it is applied. Not only was the political
structure in Egypt cursed with the application of a foreign political
doctrine, but also the Constitution, which provided for the parliamentary
system, was drawn up on the pattern of the Belgian Constitution:.
No allowance was made in view of the great differences
between the social, economic and political conditions of Egypt and
Belgium. Therefore, the basic factor leading to the unsuccessful
working of democracy in Egypt, is the unfitness of the parliamentary
system, as described by the 1923 Constitution, to match the conditions
of the country.
The position of Britain with relation to the institutions of
government in Egypt, supplies another cause of the failure of the
working of parliamentary institutions. The continual interference
of Britain in Egypt's internal political affairs, especially before
the conclusion of the 1936 Treaty, is manifest. That interference
did not stop with the conclusion of that treaty; the influence
exerted by Britain on parliamentary institutions in Egypt continued,
though in a disguised shape.
The problem of the settlement of Anglo- Egyptian relations
pushed all political potentialities in Egypt towards one object. All
political activities were concentrated on attempts to settle Egypt's
relation with Britain. Political parties and groups exploited the
nationalist tendencies of the people by directing their attention to
this one aspect of the political problem of Egypt. All efforts were
made to solve a problem which did not concern Egypt only, while
nothing was done for the promotion of democratic government. Politicians
did not try to tackle the internal political and social problems,
and the mass of the people found their interest and satisfaction in
the question of the achievement of the national aspirations.
There was no solid ground in Egyptian society for the development
of varying political parties. Their programmes were alike, and
they did not differ on matters of policy. Yloreover, they differed
slightly in the methods they followed to achieve their ends. The
challenge between different political parties was only motivated by
their determination to reach the seats of the mighty.
The Wafd, which enjoyed continuously the support of the mass
of the people, originated with the 1919 Revolt. The activities and
programmes of that party were mainly drawn on a pattern to satisfy
the national sentiments of the people. Although it showed some
democratic inclinations, the Wafd did not to
ment of parliamentary government in Egypt.
In their opposition to the Wafd, other political parties really
derived their power from the King, and did not have much popular
support. All political parties, including the Wafd, were an
important factor in the failure of representative government in
Egypt. They did not try to educate public opinion, promote the
political consciousness of the people, and bring to their attention
and understanding the different problems of the country.
Although the King was non -responsible, and was not entitled to
practice as full authority as he did, he was the point of focus of
the political system in Egypt. This special position of the King
was due not only to the fact that the Constitution itself was
ambiguous and conferred on the sovereign an extensive authority, but
to the fact that other political institutions did not check effectively
the practice of the prerogatives of the King. If any of these
institutions tried to exercise its constitutional rights to control
the acts of the King, these attempts carne after too long a period
of reluctance and revealed only the weakness of these institutions.
The King's right to appoint and dismiss his ministers caused
a relative weakness of the Cabinet. On the other hand, his right to
dissolve the Chamber of Deputies gave some power to the Cabinet in
its relation with Parliament. This means that the omnipotence of
the Cabinet appeared only when it faced the people and their representatives.
However, this power of the Cabinet was derived from
the autocracy of the King.
The Cabinet's weakest spot was its inability to frame far -seeing
and stable policies. This was not due only to the inefficient party
system, but was also the natural outcome of the short life of the
Cabinet. This short life was the result of the interference of the
King in dismissing or demanding the resignation of the Cabinet, or
by foreign interference, but hardly by the will of the people expressed
through their representatives. The Cabinet did not face
any criticism from Parliament. Actually Parliament functioned to
ratify the Cabinet's actions whether in the administrative or legislative
The weakness of Parliament was very obvious. The basic reason
of that weakness is the electoral system according to which members
of Parliament were elected. It resulted from the fact that Parliament
did not constitute in miniature the society which it represented.
No representatives of the working classes were found
amongst members of Parliament. The so- called representatives of
the people were mainly from social classes which had interests
conflicting with the mass of the people. This situation was due
not only to the social framework in Egypt, but it was also created
by the interference of the administration in the running of the
Parliament failed to perform its legislative function and to
enact laws meeting the social necessities of the country. Its
task was merely to give consent to the bills prepared by the
,Cabinet, and to those private member's bills which gained the consent
of the Cabinet. The Senate, however, succeeded in acquiring
more legislative authority than it possessed under the Constitution,
and its predominence over the Chamber of Deputies was manifest.
In performing their function of controlling the Cabinet, both
chambers of Parliament were incompetent. The Cabinet exerted
influence on both chambers through the rights of the King to nominate
two -fifths of the Senators and to dissolve the Chamber of
Deputies. Sometimes the powerfal majority which the governing
party had in Parliament, helped the Cabinet to keep both onambers
under its influence.
The University of Edinburgh
Annexe Thesis Digitisation Project 2019 Block 22
Type of publication|
Thesis or Dissertation; Doctoral; PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Edinburgh - University of Edinburgh
Added to C-A: 2021-12-15;10:22:27|
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