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From Subjects to Citizens? The Shifting Paradigm of Electoral Authoritarianism in Egypt

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A wave of elections and political reforms in the Middle East in 2005 occasioned new hope that democratization might take hold in the region. Yet the capacity of authoritarian regimes to accommodate elections and other reforms without relinquishing their grip on power has often frustrated such hopes. Egypt, which held both presidential and legislative elections in 2005, is an especially interesting case of durable authoritarianism in the face of pressure for democratization. Focusing on the role of rules governing party formation, the electoral system organizing political contestation and the constitutional balance between legislative and executive power, this article assesses the likelihood that electoral or constitutional reform will yield meaningful political liberalization. The argument is developed through an analysis of electoral and constitutional reform in Egypt from 2005 to 2006, with an epilogue assessing the subsequent rollback of democratizing measures and the initiation of a new period of de-liberalization.


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