The Arab Spring

The Arab Spring

An Essay on Revolution and Constitutionalism

Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series

Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet

Approaching the concept of Islamic constitutionalism from a comparative perspective, this thought-provoking study by Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet uses traditional Western political theory as a lens to develop a framework for analyzing the events known as the ‘Arab Spring’. Writing with clarity and insight, the authors place Western and Arabic traditions into a constructive dialogue. They focus on whether we can develop a ‘theory of revolutions’ that helps us understand events occurring at divergent times at geographically separate locations.

Chapter 5: The case of Egypt

Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet

Subjects: law - academic, comparative law, constitutional and administrative law, legal theory, politics and public policy, international politics


Egypt has experienced three different revolutions in less than a century – in 1919, 1952, and 2011. Each revolution had distinct objectives, taking form and influencing Egyptian society in different ways. However, all three illustrate that politics and constitutionalism in the country has been shaped by revolutionary upheavals. The first section of this chapter works out the parallelism between the three revolutions, acknowledging the large demographic, social, and economic changes that the country has undergone. The path to the first modern constitution in Egypt started with the process of decolonization: the revolution of 1919 in Egypt and Sudan against British rule. The second constitutionally relevant event was the unilateral declaration of independence, issued by the British government in 1922, followed by the Royal Edict in 1923, which culminated with the establishment of the first Egyptian constitutional regime. The first colonization under Ottoman rule lasted four centuries. During this period, Egypt was never fully brought into the Sultan’s Empire. The modern state of Egypt was founded under the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt and Sudan. After the Ottoman defeat in World War I, Egypt became first a British Protectorate and later a monarchy. The first section analyzes the relationship between the first King of Egypt (Fouad) and the people, and examines how the constitutional text accommodated this political issue in terms of legitimacy. The section emphasizes the attributions to the King of legislative and executive powers.

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