Egypt Table of Contents

Internal Relations

Egypt's losses in the war were enormous: approximately 10,000 soldiers and 1,500 officers killed, 5,000 soldiers and 500 officers captured, 80 percent of military equipment destroyed. Sinai was under Israeli control, and the Suez Canal was blocked and closed to shipping.

On June 9, Nasser spoke on television and took full responsibility for the debacle. He resigned as president, but the Egyptian people poured into the streets to demonstrate their support for him. The cabinet and the National Assembly voted not to accept the resignation, and Nasser withdrew it.

Soon after the cease-fire, there was a broad shake-up in the military and the government. Field Marshal Amir and Minister of Defense Badran, who had been chosen for the post by Amir, were forced to resign. General Muhammad Fawzi became commander in chief, and Nasser retained the position of supreme commander. On June 19, Nasser enlarged his political powers by assuming the role of prime minister. He named a twenty-eight-member cabinet and took control of the ASU as secretary general. Ali Sabri, the vice president and secretary general of the ASU until that time, was named deputy prime minister in the new cabinet.

On August 25, 1967, Amir and fifty other high-ranking military and civilian officials were arrested and accused of plotting to overthrow Nasser. Approximately two weeks later, the government announced that Amir, who was once considered Nasser's closest associate among the Free Officers, had committed suicide by taking poison while under house arrest.

In March 1968, widespread demonstrations by students and workers broke out in Cairo, Alexandria, and the industrial town of Hulwan. The demonstrations were provoked by the decision of a military tribunal that convicted two air force commanders of negligence in the June 1967 War and acquitted two others. The demonstrators demanded stiffer sentences for the four officers. A sit-in by students at Cairo University ended only when the government promised to retry the officers and released arrested demonstrators.

Although the decision of the military tribunal was the immediate cause of the demonstrations, the underlying cause was popular frustration with the government repression over the preceding sixteen years and the lack of popular participation in the government. Nasser declared his desire to satisfy popular demands and promised to present a plan of action. The new plan, approved by a referendum in May, called for a new constitution that would reform the ASU, grant parliament control over the government, and allow greater personal and press freedom. Popular elections were to be held for the National Assembly.

Nasser's reform of the existing political system was instituted through the formulation of new laws and the election of new members to all of the organs of the ASU. This initial phase of his plan was completed during October 1968, with the election of the reorganized Supreme Executive Committee (SEC) of the ASU. Only eight people received the required majority of votes, and the election of the remaining two members was postponed. The SEC organized itself into five permanent committees: political affairs, chaired by Anwar as Sadat; administration, chaired by Ali Sabri; internal affairs, chaired by Abdul Muhsin Abu an Nur; economic development, chaired by Muhammad Labib Shuqayr; and culture and information, chaired by Diya Muhammad Daud. Nasser headed the SEC, and its three remaining members were Husayn ash Shafii, General Muhammad Fawzi, and Kamal Ramzi Stinu.

This reorganization proved unsatisfactory to those who had hoped for an expansion of freedom and democracy. Thus, in November, demonstrations broke out again with cries of "Nasser resign" reported. Several demonstrators were killed or wounded in clashes with the police. Universities and secondary schools were again closed. The demonstrators were expressing popular frustration over the failure of the government to implement the program approved by the referendum. Nasser apparently was unwilling or unable to widen popular participation in the government.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress