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From revolutions to constitutions: the case of Egypt



    1. Reader in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews and Director of the Centre for Global Constitutionalism.
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    • An earlier draft of this article was prepared for a workshop on political constitutionalism held at Glasgow Caledonian's London Campus on 6–7 June 2012. Thanks to the organizers of the workshop, Chris McCorkindale and Marco Goldini, and to the participants for valuable feedback on the earliest draft. A revised version was presented at the University of Hamburg's Centre for Globalization and Governance; thanks to the participants in that workshop, especially Antje Weiner, for helpful feedback. For reading and comments on subsequent drafts, thanks to Michelle Burgis-Kasthala, Shane Drennan, Raymond Hinnebusch, Fiona McCallum, David Miles, Nicholas Rengger, Frederic Volpi and the reviewer for International Affairs.


This article explores the transition from revolutions to constitutions in Egypt. In order to understand the current transition, the article compares events since 2011 to the 1919 constitutional revolution and the 1952 Free Officers' Movement. In comparing these three revolutionary periods and the constitutions they produced, the article makes two overarching claims: first, a constitution does not arise from the fiat of wise lawgivers or experts in the rule of law. Rather, it emerges from a contentious political process in which competing agents and institutions seek to promote their own interests. This competitive process, however, is actually beneficial to constitution-making, constitutional politics and political life more widely. Second, the article highlights that while the political dynamics of constitution-making in Egypt reveal domestic politics, the process of constitution-making also demonstrates how such dynamics take place in a global political context. Together, these two claims point up that constitutionalism is just as much a political movement as a legal doctrine.