Between Revolution and Counterrevolution: The Role of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt in the Post-Uprising of 2011

  • Kwanchanok Kittiwanich

Student thesis: Phd


This study focuses on the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt (SCC) and its relationship to the revolution and counter-revolution, which is understudied. Employing a mixed-methods research design combining Critical Legal Studies, discourse analysis, and legal history, I devise the judicialisation of politics towards a legitimate transition framework to apply to the revolutionary context of Egypt after its uprising of 2011. I assert that the SCC acted as a centroid between competing powers—shifting power between power blocs, which seek legitimate authority for their attempts to maintain and expand their influence over the transition process. Amid the political crisis when the rise of people power and a new power bloc led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) threatened the old dominant powers (the military, security apparatus, and bureaucratic system), the SCC was a source of legal-rational legitimacy for the military, when the latter could no longer rely on the legitimacy of its coup d’état. By supervising the drafting of the constitution and election laws as well as by providing an interim president from its ranks, the SCC implicitly validated the military power to govern and normalised the state of exception and the use of emergency power. Through its rulings in Case Nos 20/24 and 57/24 the SCC eliminated politicians, disqualified election contenders, discredited the legitimacy of politicians and political parties, and invalidated the result of the elections, leading to the dissolution of the MB-led parliament. In its rulings, the SCC justified its decisions as seeking to “deepen democracy” or deploying “democratic means”, speaking “in the name of the people”, “without need for any other measure”, and “by the power of law”. This strategy consolidated the position of the court as having the final say in resolving political disputes. The SCC practices are a carefully and deliberately constructed public discourse specifically designed to make the expansion of the SCC’s power in the political arena seem reasonable, responsible, and inherently necessary. However, the judges are not representative of the people and have no political accountability. The legal language and the SCC’s expansion of judicial power to monitor the legislative and executive powers that possess democratic legitimacy pose severe challenges to democratisation. These practices weaken democratic values and undermine the legitimacy of elected institutions. As the centroid between competing powers, the SCC tips the balance between the old dominant power bloc and the new power bloc (MB), including popular power and thus empowering one power bloc at the expense of other forces in the authoritarian environment in which it operated. By legitimising the agenda of the old power bloc and thus assisting the power shift from the new contenders (i.e. popular power and the new power bloc (MB)) to the old power bloc, the SCC eventually reveals itself to be a counterrevolution institution.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorOliver Richmond (Supervisor) & Sandra Pogodda (Supervisor)


  • Egypt uprising of 2011
  • the supreme constitutional court of Egypt
  • counterrevolution
  • judicialisation of politics

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