Egypt: Sadat and the "Corrective Revolution" (1970-1981)

Updated January 2012

On his death in 1970 Nasser was succeeded by his pragmatic Vice President Anwar Sadat, who initiated a far reaching liberalisation of the economy and society by purging the state apparatus of the committed supporters of Nasser's secular, nationalist and socialist ideology. Sadat introduced a new constitution in September 1971, in which the yes/no referendum system of presidential elections was maintained (see Presidential referenda 1956 - 2005) with a modification; the candidate was to be nominated by Parliament and no longer by the ruling party. President Sadat launched the economic Open Door Policy or infitah in 1974, but political reforms were only accelerated after the outbreak in January 1977 of the 'Bread Riots' against the removal of state subsidies on flour, rice and cooking oil and Sadat's visit to occupied Al-Quds (Jerusalem), which led to escalating confrontations with the opposition. In 1977 enacted Law No 40 on Political Parties System. This marked Egypt's transition from a one-party socialist regime to a pluralistic semi-competitive regime (see People's Assembly elections 1979-2010). Law No 40 stipulated that party principles should not run counter to Sharia tenets and must preserve national unity, social peace, the socialist and democratic system as well as socialist gains. It prohibited the formation of parties along ethnic, racial, geographical lines or on the basis of sex, origins, religion or creed. Following the signing of the peace accord with Israel in 1979, the law further stipulated that party founders and members should not be opposed to the peace accord.

Five political parties emerged during the Sadat's era, namely: National Democratic Party (NDP), Liberal Socialist Party (LSP), National Progressive Unionist Party (NPUP), Wafd Party, and Socialist Labour Party (SLP). The government resorted to several measures to restrict channels of political participation, including the enactment of a host of laws to restrict the opposition and its political activities, a crack down on opponents and empowering the prosecutor general to interrogate intellectuals on their political views and affiliations. Sadat's grip on the presidency was assured and the NDP remained the ruling party, retaining power until 2011. Sadat, however, was assassinated on 6 October 1981 and his Vice President, Hosni Mubarak, was sworn in after his assassination.