Gamal Abdel Nasser
|“||My countrymen, my blood spills for you and for Egypt. I will live for your sake and die for the sake of your freedom and honor. Let them kill me; it does not concern me so long as I have instilled pride, honor, and freedom in you. If Gamal Abdel Nasser should die, each of you shall be Gamal Abdel Nasser ... Gamal Abdel Nasser is of you and from you and he is willing to sacrifice his life for the nation.||„|
|~ Nasser, quoted in Nasser: A Political Biography.|
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (15 January 1918 – 28 September 1970) was the second President of Egypt, serving from 1954 until his death in 1970. Nasser led the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy and introduced far-reaching land reforms the following year. Following a 1954 attempt on his life by a Muslim Brotherhood member, he cracked down on the organization, put President Mohamed Naguib under house arrest and assumed executive office. He was formally elected president in June 1956.
Nasser's popularity in Egypt and the Arab world skyrocketed after his nationalization of the Suez Canal and his political victory in the subsequent Suez Crisis. Calls for pan-Arab unity under his leadership increased, culminating with the formation of the United Arab Republic with Syria from 1958 to 1961. In 1962, Nasser began a series of major socialist measures and modernization reforms in Egypt. Despite setbacks to his pan-Arabist cause, by 1963 Nasser's supporters gained power in several Arab countries, but he became embroiled in the North Yemen Civil War and eventually the much larger Arab Cold War.
He began his second presidential term in March 1965 after his political opponents were banned from running. Following Egypt's defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Nasser resigned, but he returned to office after popular demonstrations called for his reinstatement. By 1968, Nasser had appointed himself Prime Minister, launched the War of Attrition to regain lost territory, began a process of depoliticizing the military and issued a set of political liberalization reforms. After the conclusion of the 1970 Arab League summit, Nasser suffered a heart attack and died. His funeral in Cairo drew five million mourners and an outpouring of grief across the Arab world.
Nasser remains an iconic figure in the Arab world, particularly for his strides towards social justice and Arab unity, modernization policies and anti-imperialist efforts. His presidency also encouraged and coincided with an Egyptian cultural boom and launched large industrial projects, including the Aswan Dam and Helwan city. Nasser's detractors criticize his authoritarianism, his human rights violations and his dominance of military over civil institutions, establishing a pattern of military and dictatorial rule in Egypt.
Nasser made Egypt fully independent of British influence, and the country became a major power in the developing world under his leadership. One of Nasser's main domestic efforts was to establish social justice, which he deemed a prerequisite to liberal democracy. During his presidency, ordinary citizens enjoyed unprecedented access to housing, education, jobs, health services and nourishment, as well as other forms of social welfare, while feudalistic influence waned.
However, these advances came at the expense of civil liberties. In Nasser's Egypt, the media were tightly controlled, mail was opened, and telephones were wiretapped. He was elected in 1956, 1958 and 1965 in plebiscites in which he was the sole candidate, each time claiming unanimous or near-unanimous support. With few exceptions, the legislature did little more than approve Nasser's policies. As the legislature was made up almost entirely of government supporters, Nasser effectively held all governing power in the nation.
By the end of his presidency, employment and working conditions improved considerably, although poverty was still high in the country and substantial resources allocated for social welfare had been diverted to the war effort.
The national economy grew significantly through agrarian reform, major modernization projects such as the Helwan steel works and the Aswan Dam, and nationalization schemes such as that of the Suez Canal. However, the marked economic growth of the early 1960s took a downturn for the remainder of the decade, only recovering in 1970. Egypt experienced a "golden age" of culture during Nasser's presidency, according to historian Joel Gordon, particularly in film, television, theater, radio, literature, fine arts, comedy, poetry, and music. Egypt under Nasser dominated the Arab world in these fields, producing cultural icons.
During Hosni Mubarak's presidency, Nasserist political parties began to emerge in Egypt, the first being the Arab Democratic Nasserist Party (ADNP). The party carried minor political influence, and splits between its members beginning in 1995 resulted in the gradual establishment of splinter parties, including Hamdeen Sabahi's 1997 founding of Al-Karama. Sabahi came in third place during the 2012 presidential election. Nasserist activists were among the founders of Kefaya, a major opposition force during Mubarak's rule. On 19 September 2012, four Nasserist parties (the ADNP, Karama, the National Conciliation Party, and the Popular Nasserist Congress Party) merged to form the United Nasserist Party