The Libary of Congress’s Global Legal Monitor published an article titled Egypt: National Elections Authority Issues New Decisions Regulating Presidential Elections. A section toward the bottom of the article paraphrased the technical requirements for running for president in Egypt in the upcoming December 2023 elections. A couple of the provisions related to citizenship and dual citizenship. Having published articles about Japan’s dual citizenship ban and the effect of Japan’s dual-citizenship ban on Japan Sumo’s citizenship requirement for stablemasters, I was interested in how Egypt addresses dual citizenship for presidential candidates. Let us explore.
(Note: If you find issues about citizenship and nationality interesting, also see my articles on immigrant visa petitions filed by U.S. noncitizen nationals and why alien rather than noncitizen is the proper term for foreign nationals in the United States.
Real-World Egyptian Politics Aside…
Do note that this article is about the technical, constitutional rules for running for president in Egypt. We recognize, but are not examining, the real-world challenges of running for president in a country where the incumbent won the previous two elections in 2014 and 2018 with at least 96% of the vote and is widely expected to win the December 2023 election by a similarly comfortable margin.
Dual Citizenship in Egypt
Egypt, unlike Japan, does not have a general prohibition of dual citizenship for adults. I do not know how common dual citizenship is in Egypt or how easy or difficult it would be for one to be permitted to keep a second citizenship along with Egyptian citizenship. For the purpose of our discussion, it suffices to acknowledge that dual citizenship is accounted for in Egyptian law.
Citizenship and Running for President of Egypt
Article 141 of the Egyptian Constitution sets forth the eligibility requirements for becoming a candidate for president (note the emphasis here is on candidacy rather than being sworn in). Below, I quote the pertinent part of the Article which pertains to citizenship:
A presidential candidate must be an Egyptian born to Egyptian parents, and neither he, his parents or his spouse may have held other citizenship.
I will note from the outset that the Library of Congress’s summary of the citizenship requirements in the article I linked to in our opening sentence gave me a very different impression of the citizenship rules for candidates for president of Egypt. I quote it below:
A candidate must be an Egyptian citizen born to Egyptian parents.
The candidate, their parents, and their spouse must not hold dual citizenship.
The Library of Congress summary led me to believe that the Egyptian citizen’s spouse could have at one time held citizenship other than Egyptian citizenship and not disqualify the candidate so long as the spouse was an Egyptian citizen with no other citizenship at the time of candidacy. Moreover, there was some ambiguity in my mind with respect to parents, although I understood the first point as requiring that both parents were at least citizens of and resident in Egypt at the time the candidate was born.
However, the English translation of Article 141 of the Egyptian Constitution is much more decisive (I note the Library of Congress article linked to it). The Constitution translation makes clear that the prohibition of dual citizenship for the candidate, the candidate’s parents, and the candidate’s spouse is not limited to when the candidate becomes a candidate. Instead, it says that the candidate, parents, or spouse may not have held any other citizenship. Thus, it appears that an individual cannot run for president of Egypt if the candidate or his or her parents or spouse ever held the citizenship of a country other than Egypt.
Assuming my hard reading is correct, I am curious how this would work for edge cases. For example, Article 6 of the Egyptian Constitution provides:
Citizenship is a right to anyone born to an Egyptian father or an Egyptian mother. Being legally recognized and obtaining official papers proving his personal data is a right guaranteed and organized by law.
Being born to either an Egyptian father or mother affords a child a right to Egyptian citizenship. We know that for purposes of running for president, it appears that the candidate must have had an Egyptian father and Egyptian mother even though the prospective candidate could have become a citizen based on only one Egyptian parent. However, what about prospective candidates who automatically acquired another citizenship at birth? For example, exempting diplomat cases, an individual born in the United States to two Egyptian parents would be a U.S. citizen. Would this individual be ineligible to be president of Egypt even if his or her parents had expeditiously renounced his or her U.S. citizenship? A strict reading of Article 141 seems to suggest that this is the case. However, there may be some room for nuance if Egyptian citizenship and nationality law puts some emphasis on whether Egypt itself recognizes a secondary citizenship. Alas, there is no further guidance in the Constitution – Article 6 [reserves all other citizenship rules to statute.
There was one notable case in which Egypt’s strict prohibition on dual citizenship for the candidate’s parents came into play. Egypt’s only meaningfully competitive presidential election came in 2012 in the aftermath of the military’s deposing of long-time President Housni Mubarak after a popular uprising. This cleared the way for new elections, and many prospective candidates from Egypt’s many factions tried to throw their hats in the ring. One of the more notable prospective candidates was Mr. Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. Mr. Ismail was initially disqualified when election authorities determined that his mother, who was already deceased, had acquired U.S. citizenship prior to her death. Mr. Ismail appealed, arguing that his mother had become a U.S. lawful permanent resident but not a U.S. citizen. Mr. Ismail appealed, but his appeal was rejected and his campaign was scuttled. The Ismail case supports my reading of the translation of Article 141 that the dual citizenship prohibition is any time instead of the time of candidacy. In this case, Mr. Ismail’s mother was already dead, but because she had become a U.S. citizen before she died, Mr. Ismail was deemed permanently ineligible to run for president of Egypt.
Aside: A Note on Current Events
I initially drafted this piece on the citizenship requirements for candidates for the Egyptian presidency one day before the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, backed by its allies in Iran and elsewhere, launched a savage attack against Egypt’s neighbor, Israel, murdering hundreds of Israeli (and foreign) civilians while taking more as hostages. Hamas’ actions ushered in a new war in the Middle East. My thoughts and prayers are with the injuries and the families of the deceased and while it is always dangerous to expect too much from the international community or Israel’s purported regional allies in these sorts of situations, I sincerely hope that notwithstanding lukewarm public statements, Egypt and others give Israel space (if not unequivocal public support) as it engages in the hard work of neutralizing the genocidal terrorist elements in Gaza.