Egypt — January 2007

Sociopolitical Situation

President Hosni Mubarak has been Egypt’s head of State since 1981. He was elected for a fifth term in Egypt’s first ever multi-candidate presidential election in September 2005. In the December 2005 parliamentary elections, 88 deputies (out of total of 444 seats filled by election) were voted to office as independents representing the Islamic opposition. The presidential and parliamentary elections benefited from a package of legislative reforms allowing for greater participation.

A major obstacle to the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms is the implementation of the Emergency Law, applied since 1981 and renewed in mid 2006. Although the constitution recognizes the freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, and association, these are restricted under the State of Emergency Law.

There have been some recent developments in human rights, such as the establishment of the National Council of Human Rights. The Council’s first two annual reports have covered several areas of human rights concerns, and have called on the authorities to address these concerns. The main concern that the Council has addressed is the presence of 17,000 political prisoners, a majority of whom are Islamists.

Egypt has had a strong economic growth in recent years, a situation that continued through 2005, with a growth 4.8% in GDP (US$82 billion) against a population growth of 1.8% (GDP/capita US$ 1140).

Despite the positive growth, Egypt still exhibits extreme differences between rich and poor and is by any standard still to be considered a poor country. Overpopulation is the largest problem (70 million) and is scarcely addressed by the authorities. Families living below the line of poverty reach 23% and 43.9% of Egypt’s population live at $2 /day level.

Agriculture accounts for 16% of the GDP and plays an important part in the economy. The industry and services sectors account for 34% and 50% of the GDP respectively; tourism is a high contributor to the services sector.

The big challenge remains of creating higher-productivity jobs for over 700,000 new members of the labor force each year, or the magnitude of poverty will grow.

Religious Situation

The anti-Christian riots that took place last year, mainly in the city of Alexandria, did not have any lasting affect on the lives of the people. No major acts of violence were reported during 2006. However, discrimination is still observed against Christians on various levels.

Following the election of Patriarch Antonios Nagib as head of the Coptic Catholic Church, several developments and reforms took place in the administration of the patriarchate and in the relations between the Coptic Catholic bishops and the patriarchate.

Two new bishops were elected in 2006: Msgr. Antonios Mina as the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Geza, Beni Suef and Fayoum and Msgr. Boutros Fahim as vicar general and assistant to the patriarch.

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