The solo man state: how the general consolidated power

Basel Abdullah

June 15, 2019

The French philosopher Montesquieu said that political freedom only exists in systems in which powers are separated, where each branch limits the power of the other. Any man with power tends to misuse it unless there are limits. Egypt is the model of a solo man state where one person holds all the power.

Before the January 25 Revolution, there were many conflicts between the military and the police as the latter expanded significantly during the mandate of Habib el-Adly due to his closeness to the President’s son, Gamal Mubarak, who was greedy for power. But after the police collapsed during the revolution, the military council worked on rebuilding, arming and enforcing the police because the military believes that they are the authority’s strong-arm. That relation was fostered in the later part of President Mohamed Morsi’s mandate because of the historic hostility adopted by the police apparatus against the Brotherhood.  

Before Morsi’s presidency, then Defence Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi worked on tightening his relationship with the police until the June 30 coup. According to leaks, a meeting was held between Sisi and police commanders in which he stated: “you are our front line on the ground.”

Then he unleashed them to take revenge against his opponents, to torture and arrest them with impunity. During the mandate of the general policemen become demigods with a free license from Sisi who said explicitly in a public conference: “No action will be taken against any officer who kills a protester.”

After Sisi – the man who came from the core of military – secured the loyalty of the police, he turned to the judiciary. He bestowed them with money by raising their salaries and their privileges, as he did with the military, whilst at the same time Egyptian society were tolerating a budget deficit.

There was an equal response from the judiciary, who spared no effort to suppress opponents and issued hundreds of death penalties without due process, sufficient evidence or fair trials. Life imprisonment and lengthy sentences became habitual.

To maintain control on the judiciary, Sisi has changed legislation and amended the constitution. He gave himself the right to nominate all the heads of judiciary bodies and the attorney general. Under his presidency he also established the Supreme Council of Judiciary Bodies, modified the laws of supervisory bodies and made himself responsible for nominating their heads.

In the case of legislative power, parliamentary elections were supposed to be held six months after the adoption of the new constitution in January 2014, and the President was supposed to nominate a maximum of 5 per cent of the parliamentary members. In reality, parliamentary elections were delayed for more than a year and a half, until after the situation became stable in favour of the new president.

According to several witnesses and feature articles, Egyptian intelligence bodies held several meetings with politicians and others to arrange the elective process and prepare a list of candidates under the control of the security and executive bodies so that parliamentary members could defend the government.

This means that no decision or bill proposed by the government has been refused and parliament has approved decisions in clear violation of constitutional texts including decisions such as the cabinet reshuffle, tax and rising prices.

This prepared parliament has approved many tragic decisions taken by the president or by his government, including on issues previously considered red lines such as conceding land to Saudi Arabia and constitutional amendments increasing the president’s power over the judiciary.

That is how a general who came from Military Intelligence has taken over all branches of power in Egypt and made all of the state’s bodies comply with the solo man system.