‘Semi-Presidential’ Government in Egypt after the Arab Spring: Insights from the Weimar Republic (2017)

Contemporary interest in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ extends beyond the study of constitutional law or the field of legal studies more generally. One cross-cutting topic that has attracted the attention of jurists and non-jurists alike is the wave of constitutional changes that have accompanied the revolts that have occurred in many Arab countries since 2010. This scholarship generally either discusses constitutional changes in one country in particular or situates it within wider regional or international context. This paper focuses upon Egypt’s “semi-presidential government”, it draws upon scholarship that has been produced by both lawyers and non-lawyers. Specific emphasis will be placed upon constitutional articles that were introduced or re-confirmed, and which are essential preconditions if a system of government is to be considered semi-presidential. In addition, the article will also focus upon the question of how this constitution and regime impact upon the separation of powers, the rule of law and associated rights and freedoms.

This paper begins with a “post-Duvergerian definition”, which applies the term ‘semi-presidentialism’ to countries which satisfy two criteria: firstly, the executive should evidence the attribute of duality – this entails that the executive will be headed by a (often popularly elected) president, who will draw upon a more or less extensive list of prerogatives; in addition it will also include a prime minister and his/her cabinet, who are individually and collectively responsible to the Parliament and also to the President; secondly, it should be characterized by interdependency between the executive and the ‘House of Representatives’. The Government can therefore – usually subject to the approval of the President – dissolve the House and the House retains the right to ‘positively’ (power of vote) or ‘negatively’ indicate its confidence in the government or measures that it proposes. Once it is acknowledged that semi-presidentialism is a constitutional category within a democratic government that is grounded within the separation of powers, it becomes increasingly apparent that it is, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the effective or aspired transition to democracy, appropriate to apply this label to the Egyptian political system. This is reflected by the fact that external observers appear increasingly predisposed to describe the Egyptian system of government as ‘semi-presidential’.

This paper is hardly unique in finding the experience of the Weimar Republic to be an instructive point of engagement. A closer engagement with the literature reveals that it is increasingly recognized that the Weimar Republic was the first historical instance of what Duverger, in referring to the French Fifth Republic, would later label as semi-presidentialism. Cindy Skach, who has contributed extensively to the theorization of semi presidentialism as a constitutional category, has previously referred to empirical examples which include, inter alia, the Weimar Republic. Other scholars have instead approached and engaged the Weimar Republic through a more general interest in semi-presidentialism. I will proceed to demonstrate this point by applying the example of the Weimar Republic from three different angles. I will initially discuss the relationship between the constitution and the republic, and will seek to demonstrate how the drafting of a constitution, and the engineering of a political system can directly influence, or at the very least symbolize, the transition to democracy. I will then proceed to outline the different institutions that are required for a system to be considered semi-presidential in character.

Keywords: #Semi-presidentialism; #Weimar_Republic; #Egypt, #Constitutional_Law, #Constitution, Political System.

Khalil, Asem. Semi-Presidential’ Government in the Post Arab Spring’s Egypt: Insights from the Weimar Republic. Unpublished paper, 2017.

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