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The Fight over Institutions in Post-Revolution Egypt

Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid
p. 59-76


This paper examines the fight over a new institutional order in post-January Revolution Egypt. It traces institutional change since the ousting of Hosny Mubarak on February 2011. It uses the historical institutionalism theoretical framework in order to illuminate understanding of this process of institutional change during three phases, namely: rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (February 2011-June 2012) by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) (June 2012-June 2013) and since the overthrow of that rule on July 3, 2013. It situates this institutional change within the context of a struggle for power among the three forces that took part in the January Revolution, namely the armed forces, the MB and the revolutionary youth, delineating major issues in this fight. It explains the authoritarian choices of the first two actors in terms of their strategic calculations, unintended consequences, path dependency and past cultural traditions. It brings to light the negative implications of this shaky institutional structure for the search for social justice in Egypt.

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The process of institutional change
The first phase (February 11, 2011 – June 30, 2012)
The second phase (June 30, 2012 – June 30, 2013)
The third phase (after June 30, 2013)
1. Civil-Military Relations
2. Relations within the Executive Branch
3. Composition of the legislature
4. Theoretical basis of political representation in the People’s Assembly
An attempt at interpretation

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A revolution is, by definition, the expression of a wish to reject institutions of an old order and to replace them with new institutions likely to give shape to a new order. As the January Revolution of 2011 in Egypt is the subject of much controversy, we will use cautiously the term “institutional change,” and not “institutional reform” or “upheaval,” to describe this process. We will define institutions as “the formal or informal procedures, routines, norms and conventions embedded in the organizational structure of the polity or political economy…[which] can range from the rules of a constitutional order or the standard operating procedures of a bureaucracy to the conventions governing trade union behavior or bank-firm relations.” The historical institutionalist approach adopted in this paper associates institutions with organizations and the rules or conventions promulgated by formal bodies.

In this sense, there has definitely been much institutional change in Egypt ...

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Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, « The Fight over Institutions in Post-Revolution Egypt », Égypte/Monde arabe,Troisième série, 16 | 2017, mis en ligne le 15 octobre 2019, consulté le 16 octobre 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/ema.3714

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Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid

Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid is Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.

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