Local Government History
The historical development of Egypt’s government institutions has created a strong bias in favor of centralization. The bureaucracy was shaped in its formative years by Nasser’s centralized planning and state-led development. Although in recent years President Mubarak has initiated efforts to streamline and localize public administration, Egypt remains a highly centralized political system.
President Mubarak has issued on April 17, 2008 a presidential decree that modified the administrative borders of some governorates and divided the capital, Cairo, into 3 administrative districts each headed by a deputy-governor. Moreover, the decree has established two new governorates, Hilwan and The 6th of October, thereby raising the number of governorates from 26 to 28. All governorates are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior. Governorates are headed by a governor and an executive council appointed by the president. At the next level, there are 126 districts for administrative purposes. There are elected people’s councils at both the governorate and district levels, but these bodies have very limited power in relation to the executive councils. At the local level there are 4496 village municipalities and 199 town municipalities in Egypt. Municipalities are controlled by an executive council appointed by the central government, and their elected councils have relatively little power. The new administrative divisions entail moving government institutions and agencies from one governorate to another. The latest administrative modifications were adopted in the context of the government tendency to enhance decentralizing. They are also compatible with the new law of local councils that will be submitted to the parliament in its next session. The draft law strengthens the powers of local councils that were elected on April 8, 2008. The government stressed that the aim of these administrative modifications is to restore equilibrium in terms of population and economic resources among the concerned governorates. The restored equilibrium is supposed to advance human and economic development through re-allocation of resources.
Local Government Budgetary Reform
As a new participant – as of January 2005 -- in the IMF’s in the Special Data Dissemination Standard of the IMF, which reflects international best practice in the area of economic and financial statistics, Egypt will be expected to disaggregate its central and local government budgets.
The sub-national government bodies in Egypt have relatively little fiscal autonomy. All governorate, district, and municipal budgets are part of the central budget approved by the legislature. Transfers of funds from the central government account for 90% of local revenues. Local governments raise monies through urban real estate, agricultural land, motor vehicle registration, and licensing. Most regional and local funds are allocated to existing expenditures, such as salaries and debt management. The absence of capital at the local level undermines the ability of these governments to initiate development projects. Two of the few sources of local capital are the national Special Funds Account and the budgets of municipal people’s councils.
Reform: Fiscal Decentralization
The government of Egypt has implemented a number of programs in coordination with international assistance to increase local institutional capacity and improve administrative efficiency. Working with USAID, government officials have developed a program to increase the devolution of authority to local government and increase its participation in rural development.
The latest local elections in Egypt took place on April 8, 2008. The number of eligible voters was 35 million and the number of candidates was 70,000 who contested 52,000 local councils seats. The ruling National Democratic Party fielded 55,000 candidates. The number of general electoral committees was 318 and number of local committees was 41,000. In addition to the National Party, four political parties participated in the elections, namely Al-Wafd, The Rally Party, The Nasserite Party and Al-Jeel Party. However, the Muslim Brothers Group, the largest opposition party and the main rival to the National Party declared its withdrawal from elections a few hours prior to voting. The Group said its withdrawal came as a response to the government’s rejection of 4000 candidates nominated by Muslim Brothers although they submitted all required legal documents for their nomination. Moreover, the government had rejected to abide by more than 3800 judicial orders, or decisions in favor of allowing nominees to run in elections. AT the beginning of the voting process, The National Party announced that it won 83% of all local councils seats uncontested. Competition was restricted to 17% of total seats. Final result showed that the National Party won more than 95% of all local councils seats. The ministry of interior did not announce the rate of participation; however, human rights organizations who monitored elections estimated that rate at 5% - 7% only. The Secretary General of the Rally Party agreed with this estimate. Local elections this time gains great importance as a result of the constitutional amendments which committed any presidential candidate to receive the support of 150 local councils members in 10 provinces.
There was no judicial supervision of elections. The Studies Center for Justice, Democracy and Human Rights in Egypt which monitored the electoral process in Cairo and Alexandria said that “there were no elections at all”. The National Center for Human Rights reported some violations including preventing some observers to enter voting centers and expelling more than 80% of observers who represented human rights organizations.
The previous Municipal elections occurred in April 2002. Roughly 70% of the ruling NDP’s candidates ran unopposed. The NDP registered 48,106 candidates out of a total 60,080 candidates registered including opposition and independent candidates. The NDP eventually won 97% of municipal seats. The NDP won 52% of the constituencies unopposed. Voter turnout was very low due to the fact that few opposition or independent candidates ran in the elections in addition to the predetermined results in many districts where there were no opposition candidates. The Interior Ministry claims voter turnout was high but has not given any numbers. The term of these municipal and local councils ended on April 15, 2006. However, on February 12, 2006 the Egyptian consultative council approved delaying these elections for two years, until April of 2008. The president of the consultative council, Mr. Safwat Al-Shareef, claimed that the delay was needed to prepare a new local administration law. He said that expanding administrative decentralization would be a major component of constitutional and legislative amendments in the next phase. The Muslim Brothers group objected to the delay, claiming it was directed at blocking its own progress and weakening its political influence in Egypt.