Nathan J. Brown and Katie Bentivoglio write: Since assuming office in June 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been making a series of slow but deliberate legal moves to restore and strengthen the authority of state institutions. In the absence of parliament, he has taken advantage of a constitutional vacuum to lay the groundwork for authorities to act with wide discretion and little public oversight. After the 2011 revolution, outside social and political actors were optimistic that they could build a more responsive state; today, however, they are poorly placed to counter Sisi’s efforts. His approach will also likely survive the election of a parliament when that long-promised step is finally taken—perhaps by the end of 2014.
Given Egypt’s long authoritarian tradition, many state institutions are already capable of evading the rule of law. But Sisi’s legislative agenda may give official bodies such extensive license as to make it less necessary in the future to resort to extraordinary measures (such as the much despised state of emergency) in order to exercise sweeping powers. The ultimate result may not govern Egypt well, and it is likely to be challenged from below and perhaps even from inside. However, the foundations being laid now may allow state institutions to weather such threats through normal institutional channels, enabling senior officials to act legally and unaccountably at the same time. [Continue reading…]