Revolution Without Reform? A Critique of Egypt's Election Laws

80 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2012 Last revised: 17 Nov 2013

Date Written: August 24, 2012


This paper compares the laws before and after the revolution to determine whether the changes implemented are sufficient to produce the structural reforms Egyptians demand. This paper concludes that Egyptian elections processes and institutions remain insufficiently transparent, fail to produce results reflecting the diversity within Egyptian society, and fail to offer all Egyptians, especially women and religious minorities, an equal opportunity to actively participate in governance of their country.

The paper critically assesses recent changes in Egypt’s electoral regime and considers whether Egypt had a revolution without reform. The thesis is twofold. First, the limited reforms made to election laws post-revolution are insufficient to produce the sustainable and meaningful democracy sought by Egyptians. Existing post-revolution laws fail to create transparent and independent processes that facilitate a level playing field among candidates and voter confidence in election outcomes. Second, the post-revolution amendments worsen prospects for Egyptian women and Coptic Christians to be elected to office, thereby further marginalizing them in the public sphere. Such adverse consequences are troubling in light of the significant contributions women and Egyptian Coptic Christians made to the revolution.

In this early stage of the post-revolutionary phase, there is reason for cautious optimism. While Egyptian election laws have been amended for the better since the revolution, more legislative reforms are needed to ensure that future elections are fair, free, and accessible to all Egyptians. Sound election laws are the bedrock of a democracy insofar as they ensure that a dominant party does not extend its rule against the will of the people. As witnessed with the National Democratic Party (NDP) under the Mubarak regime, laws can be manipulated to guarantee certain electoral outcomes benefitting the dominant party.

In the end, Egypt is at the initial stages of a protracted transition from entrenched authoritarianism to democracy uniquely tailored to Egyptian cultural and religious norms. One year after its historic revolution, Egyptians have made great strides toward that common goal. Whether post-revolution reforms will be structural and produce a complete upheaval of a corrupt political system, as called for by most Egyptians, or merely superficial changes under the false guise of reform will determine the success of this transition. While it is still too soon to predict the outcome, one thing is quite clear - future political leaders who seek to impose authoritarianism do so at their own peril.

Keywords: Egypt, Egyptian Elections, Egyptian Parliament, Rule of Law, Arab Spring, Democracy, Middle East, Revolution, January 25 Revolution, Egyptian Revolution, Women's Rights, Minority Rights, Muslim Brotherhood, Independent Judiciary

Suggested Citation

Aziz, Sahar F., Revolution Without Reform? A Critique of Egypt's Election Laws (August 24, 2012). 45 George Washington Int'l L. Rev. 101 (2012). Available at SSRN: or

Sahar F. Aziz (Contact Author)

Rutgers Law School ( email )

United States


Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics