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Constraints on the promotion of the rule of law in Egypt: insights from the 2005 judges' revolt

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During the 2005 elections in Egypt, newspapers around the world widely reported on the 'judges' revolt'. The judiciary, supported by civil society, confronted the executive by denouncing the fraudulent results of the constitutional referendum, as well as 2005 presidential and legislative elections. The 'judges' revolt' was a test case for external promoters of the rule of law in Egypt. Following a detailed analysis of the events of 2005 in Egypt and the case of the judges' revolt, this article aims to understand the reasons for the EU's difficulties in promoting rule of law in Egypt. This article reveals that the EU's action in the field of rule of law promotion in Egypt was constrained by two categories of factors: 'exogenous factors' related to the external promoters of rule of law (the EU, the US) and then 'endogenous factors' related to the domestic context. At an exogenous level, it is possible to distinguish three main factors interacting with rule of law promotion. Firstly, the EU's intergovernmental nature as a foreign policy actor weakens its position as a rule of law promoter. Secondly, ongoing negotiations over the ENP Action Plan (Egyptian-EU relationship) at the time of the revolt, coupled with a third factor (Egyptian-US relationship), have compelled the EU to opt for an integrated approach towards promoting rule of law in Egypt. Then, at an endogenous level, the instrumentalization by the Egyptian regime of external aid funding in the field of human rights and democratization complicates the EU's activities in the country, compelling the EU to look for strategies that bypass domestic constraints.
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Keywords: 2005 Egyptian elections; Egypt; European Union; judges' revolt; justice and home affairs; rule of law promotion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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