Egypt was declared independent on 28 February 1922. The British government proclaimed this without any discussions with representatives from Egypt, leaving the details on 4 issues, namely the communications security of British occupation in Egypt, Egypt’s defense, foreign affairs of Egypt, minority races’ protection, and the state of Sudan to be ironed out later. On this day, Egypt’s Independence Day, Sultan Ahmad Fuad became King Fuad I. Faruk, Fuad’s son, was his heir. In April, there was a new constitution formed, including a new law that introduced parliamentary elections.
After 1923, there were 3 main political powers in Egypt:
On 12 January 1924, Wafd achieved a resounding majority of 179 seats out of 211 in the Parliament in election. There were two other opposition parties, the National Party and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (LCP), who attained one seat each. The LCP was in very good relationship with the British.
Wafd felt it had a duty to achieve complete independence from the British. Zaghlul carefully created a cabinet with people chosen from a variety across the Egyptian society, thus called the ‘People’s Ministry’, that was sworn in on 15 March 1924 by the King. This began the first Wafdist government.
Decreasing the power of the Wafd
Due to an assassination of British governor general of Sudan in Cairo, Sir Lee Stack, on 19 November 1924, along with many other assassinations of British officials, Allenby wanted revenge for Stack and to humiliate the Wafd and destroy its power in Egypt. He demanded Egypt to:
With such stringent requests, Zaghlul decided to resign than to accept them. His cabinet was forced to accept all but the fifth and sixth terms. Zaghlul resigned on 24 November 1924, after requesting the Finance Ministry to pay the £500 000. Three years after his resignation, he passed away.
The King's Actions
After 1924, the King prevented elections from taking place until 1926 due to hatred of the Wafd. In 1926 however, the Wafd still won the election. 2 years later, a new leader of the Wafd, Mustafa Nahas Pasha, emerged and became Egypt’s Prime Minister. The new government made a new law stating that the king cannot rule without the parliament. Knowing that Wafd could control the country anytime, the King froze the constitution. Despite that, the next election in 1930, Wafd won it again. Thus in 1931, the King used his powers to fire Nahas and suspended the 1923 constitution.
In the 1930s, there was a new opposition to the Wafd Ismail Sidqi. He got rid of the 1930 constitution and increased the power of the King with a new constitution. He also created the al Hizb ash Shaab party, which combined with the Ittihad Party in 1938. In the same year, disillusioned Wafd members left and created a party named after Saad Zaghlul - the Saadist.
In 1936, Faruk succeeded King Fuad after his death on 28th April. Elections in May resulted in Wafd still winning the majority of seats 89% of votes, 157 seats in Parliament.
On 26 August 1936, a treaty was signed after discussions resumed between the Egyptian and British counterparts on the 4 issues that had remained unsolved since Egypt gained her independence in 1922. Nahas led the Egyptians, while the British were lead by their high commissioner Miles Lampson.
The treaty includes
However, the Wafd continued to demand full control of Sudan by Egyptians
Aftermath of Treaty The decline of Wafd
The treaty in August 1936 gave Egypt the assurance that Britain would limit her interference on the country. Nevertheless, there was no complete independence for Egypt yet, for it was little more than an empty declaration. The treaty evoked emotions of many, creating anti-Wafd and anti-Britain strikes. Many thought that the Wafd wandered away from the nationalist mission by signing the treaty. Due to this and other developmental problems caused by the Wafd, its power decreased in Egypt as her popularity waned. Wafd, though a voice of the nation, did not manage to solve local internal problems such as unemployment, high costs of living and slow development. It also did not execute the social and economic reforms it had called for earlier. There were strong opinions against the Wafd especially with their indecisive dealing with the British.
In the 1930s, the more extremist and violent military-fashioned groups such as the Al Ikhwan al Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood), which pushed for an Islamic state in Egypt, and Misr al Fatat (Young Egypt), a radical nationalist party with religious ideas, wore away people’s support of the Wafd.
A year later, a paramilitary youth wing of Wafd, League of Wafdist Youth, was formed. They were soon known as the Blueshirts. In February 1938, Faruk and the Wafd had great tensions between them, and Nahas was sacked from his Prime Minister position.
Colonisation of Egypt. © Copyright 2005
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