"For comparative politics scholars, the book is an invaluable pedagogical resource for outlining how constructivist historical institutionalism could advance our understanding of authoritarian politics. For scholars of Egypt, the book offers a unique prism for conceptualizing the evolution of the country’s politics since the mid-19th century, especially regarding how elite-led politics have responded (or failed to respond) to social conflict and societal change."—Hesham Sallam, Democratization
"A historical and empirically rich analysis of parliamentary life in Egypt. . . . A valuable contribution to various debates in Middle East studies, history, and political science."—Holger Albrecht, author of Raging Against the Machine: Political Oppression under Authoritarianism in Egypt
"The book is a must reading not only for those interested in Egyptian politics but also for all those interested in the working of parliament under authoritarian regimes."—Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid, Cairo University
When protests erupted in response to the 2010 Egyptian parliament elections that were widely viewed as fraudulent, many wondered. Why now? Voters had never witnessed free and fair elections in the past, so why did these elicit such an outcry? To answer this question, Weipert-Fenner conducted the first study of politics in modern Egypt from a parliamentary perspective. Contrary to the prevailing opinion that autocratic parliaments are meaningless, token institutions, Weipert-Fenner’s long-term analysis shows that parliament can be an indicator, catalyst, and agent of change in an authoritarian regime.
Comparing parliamentary dynamics over decades, Weipert-Fenner demonstrates that autocratic parliaments can grow stronger within a given political system. They can also become contentious when norms regarding policies, political actors, and institutions are violated on a large scale and/or at a fast pace. Most importantly, a parliament can even turn against the executive when parliamentary rights are withdrawn or when widely shared norms are violated. These and other recurrent patterns of institutional relations identified in The Autocratic Parliament help explain long spans of stable, yet never stagnant, authoritarian rule in colonial and postcolonial periods alike, as well as the different types of regime change that Egypt has witnessed: those brought about by external intervention, by revolution, or by military coup.
About the Author
Irene Weipert-Fenner is a senior research fellow at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF). In 2019 she served as a visiting professor of Middle Eastern politics at Philipps-University Marburg, Germany. She is the coeditor of Clientelism and Patronage in the Middle East and North Africa: Networks of Dependency and Socioeconomic Protests in MENA and Latin America: Egypt and Tunisia in Interregional Comparison.
Series: Modern Intellectual and Political History of the Middle East
6 x 9, 288 pages, 3 black and white illustrations