Systems of Government: North Korea and Egypt Running Head: Systems of Government: North Korea and Egypt

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Systems of Government: North Korea and Egypt

Running Head: Systems of Government: North Korea and Egypt

Systems of Government: North Korea and Egypt

Julie MacDonald


Political Science 101:14 Introduction to Political Science

Lavinia Stan

Saint Francis Xavier University

Date Submitted: March 23rd, 2011

North Korea and Egypt are two countries with distinct systems of government which organize the state. North Korea maintains a system of Authoritarianism, which is a concept that indicates that authority may or may not rest on popular support but that is not assessed independent of elections. Egypt abides by a system of Totalitarianism, which is considered to be a modern form of autocratic rule. Totalitarianism is a way of organizing tyrannical or despotic rule in which the state attempts to modify society according to an ideological design. The two forms of government of North Korea and Egypt will be compared and contrasted to explain why they are not democratic states (Dickerson, Flanagan, O’Neill, 2010). I will begin with a discussion describing the government structure of each country, followed by the alternation of politicians, the role of the main parties and the role of the civil society, before ending with a conclusion.

North Korea is a totalitarian state centered on the ideology of self-reliance which was created by Kim II Sung. Kim II Sung, also known as the great leader, was the founder of the government of North Korea in nineteen forty eight. He also created the world’s first communist hereditary leader by appointing his son Kim Jong II as his successor (Author Unknown, 2008)

There are three main central powers in North Korea’s government, the Korean Workers Party, The Kim family and associates and the army. Kim II Sung is a symbol of the state and is known as the eternal president and chief of state. There is no particular office that correlates to the chief of state, but some previous presidential duties are performed by a Standing Committee called the presidium. This presidium consists of fifteen individuals from the legislature, which is called the Supreme Peoples Assembly. The Chair of the Standing Committee is selected by the legislature and if required will represent the state (Author Unknown, 2008).

The theoretical head of government is the prime minister, who is in charge of forming the State Administrative Council, also known as the cabinet. The Central Peoples Committee is a part of the government responsible for creating government policies. Previously, members of this committee were selected by the president, but after the death of Kim II Sung, individuals from the Korean Workers Party, the cabinet, and the legislature were appointed to this committee (Author Unknown, 2008).

The Korean Workers Party is essentially more powerful than North Koreas government and maintains a prevalent role in the legislature. The legislature contains Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party, creating an appearance of political pluralism (Author Unknown, 2008).

The assembly of North Korea contains a single chamber legislature consisting of six hundred and eighty seven members of the Supreme Peoples Assembly. The assembly has duration of five years and is elected by all adults over the age of seventeen by suffrage. The assumption is that this assembly is the most powerful organization in the country, but in reality the assembly holds little power. The main duty of the assembly is to approve decisions and laws already enacted by the Korean Workers Party (Author Unknown, 2008).

The local government in North Korea is very limited by state. The central authorities of the state are in charge of appointing official administrators, which are essentially more influential than the elected officials for the particular area (Author Unknown, 2008)

Egypt theoretically has a democratic system of government, but in reality maintains a system of authoritarian government. Egypt includes twenty six districts, each of which are appointed a governor by the president and there are three branches of national government, which are the executive, legislative, and judiciary (Sullivan, Jones, 2008).

The Executive branch of government in Egypt consists of the Presidency and the Cabinet. The President is given a tremendous amount of power including the right to appoint and dismiss the prime minister, cabinet, commander in chief of the armed forces and other senior officers. The president also has legislative powers and is given the right to settle disputes between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The president has the power to draw up public polices and oversee their execution, to veto bills passed by the national assembly, to issue emergency legislation, and to refer major issues to the national assembly. Under the presidency of Sadat, even more powers were given to the president and restraints were removed. The president was given the power to issue laws by decree in economic matter as well as for the purchase of arms. The restriction on how many times one individual could serve as president was also removed as a rule (Fahmy, 2002).

The president is the head of the government party, called the National Democratic Party. This party rules the parliament and the president becomes the high commander of the armed forces. The Cabinet, which is lead by the Prime Minister, oversees the public policies that are implemented by the state (Fahmy, 2002).

The Legislative branch of government in Egypt is made up of a bicameral assembly of four hundred and forty four elected members, and ten members appointed by the president to serve a five year term. The Peoples Assembly must use its legislative authority to approve public policies of the state, the economic and social development plan, and the general budget. The Peoples Assembly also contains some control over the executive such as the right to question the prime minister and his cabinet members, to request information of issues to the cabinet, to investigate committees, and to ask for explanations of specific acts (Fahmy, 2002).

The Judiciary branch of Egypt’s government is an independent court system led by the Supreme Constitutional Court and followed by the Islamic and civil laws. There are several other courts in the judicial branch such as the Court of Cassation, seven High Courts of Appeal in the governorates, Tribunals of First Instance and Summary Tribunals in the districts. Egypt also has an exceptional State Military Court, which has little appeal and allows governments to avoid civil liberties, allowing them to prosecute individuals such as human rights and democracy activists (Sullivan, Jones, 2008).

In North Korea elections are held every five years and in the two most recent government elections, there has been a lack of alternation of politicians and parties. The past two elections were taken place in two thousand and nine and two thousand and three, and both times leader Kim Jong II was re-elected, who has been in power since nineteen ninety four. In a totalitarian state, unlike democratic states, the leader is elected to serve in this position for life. A totalitarian system of government is one that exists without checks and balances, leaving the leader with a high degree of centralized decision making, delegating a more significant role to the leader than in democratic or authoritarian states (Lim, 2009).

In Egypt elections take place every six years and recently Hosni Murbarak won the last two elections that were taken place in two thousand and five and nineteen ninety nine. Since nineteen eighty one Hosni Murbarak maintained the position of president in Egypt, until recently in February 2011 when he was forced to resign due to an uprising against the limitations of the autocratic regime. The leading political party, NDP was also expelled from the state as request from protesters of Egypt. Currently the position of president in Egypt is vacant, while the Supreme Council of Armed forces leader Mohamed Hussein Tantawi acts as the head of state until a new election for president is held (Boex, 2011).

The Workers Party of Korea is the ruling party in North Korea and determines all key policies and action lines. The party functions as the core of North Korean politics and commands all its members. The party charter claims to represent the interests of Korean people and the nation, with the objective of turning society towards the ideology of self reliance and constructing a socialist society (T’ongsin, 2003).

The Workers Party contains features of both a class party and a party controlled by a sole leader. The party is more inclined to be referred to as a sole leader’s party due to the basis that members carry out tasks under the absolute guidance and control of the sole leader. The Workers Party is composed of two independent alliance parties, the Korea Cheondoist Congu Party, and the Korea Socialist Democratic Party, which are used as vanguard units to the Workers Party (T’ongsin, 2003).

Although the Korean Workers Party is the highest governing party, Kim Jong II is in control of this organization taking the position of the party’s general secretary and the National Defense Commission chairmen. The General Assembly is the most relevant tool used in the Workers Party for guiding and is held once every five years. It performs project reviews, amends the charter, determines action lines and policies, and elects members of the Party Central Committee. The Party Central Committee is responsible to establish the sole leadership of the party, formulating and supervising party action lines, and managing party finances. The Party Central Committee contains the politburo and the secretariat, both of which are crucial to management and policy making decisions of the Workers Party (T’ongsin, 2003).

In Egypt the official ruling political party is the National Democratic Party, which is in control of over eighty percent of the seats in parliament. The NDP party seeks to obtain majority of votes in the legislative election in order to ensure the implementation of their policies, which does not comply with the standards of democratic states. This party consists of a combination of business and political elites rather than an organization with a specific ideology and is given significant financial and social resources (Sharp, 2009; Makari, 2007). Although the NDP do not oppose opposition parties, they often restrict their ability to introduce their policies and run for specific elections, which restraints political participation in the state (DeRouen, Bellamy, 2008). The NDP ideology claims to be in favour of the centrality of Egyptian national identity and encourages economic development, enhancement of women and youth role in politics, and achieving national interests (DeRouen, Bellamy, 2008).

Civil Society is often a term used in the western world, and often signifies strive for a transformation to a more democratic state when used in the Middle East. A strong civil society can be a challenge to authoritarian states, and can gain political freedom and increase human rights to the citizens. The Egyptian constitution is mostly democratic with the exception of one particular section which claims non-Muslims and women to have unequal civil rights. The Egyptian government is often said to have a hostile opinion towards the idea of a civil society due to the opposition created that interferes with the restrictions the government places on its citizens. Over the years the number of civil associations in Egypt have grown, and are mitigated through international funded non governmental organizations. These associations are a counterpart of the oppressive state and aim to develop human rights and act as social networks where the government fails to do so (Ibrahim, 2003).

In totalitarian countries such as North Korea, where political leaders can not hold on to state power or govern the state with the belief they know what is best for society, leaders of non-state organizations consider themselves as the civil society of the state. They seek to create organizations that are free from state control, and to be a voice for the citizens and minorities in the country not being represented. Their goal is to bring about change in government policies and to restructure the state and its political relations (Alagappa, 2004).

In conclusion it is evident that both North Korea and Egypt do not possess a democratic form of government. The totalitarian system in North Korea is far from developing a system of democracy in the state. It is clear when analyzing North Koreas system of government and politics that all decisions can be overridden by the sole leader. This system is in complete opposition of the beliefs of a democratic state, where all citizens have input and can participate in political decisions regarding the state. The authoritarian government of Egypt, is also country that does not support the ways of democracy, but is developing signs of a possible transition towards democratization. The uprising against the Egyptian president and his autocratic regime indicates signs of a growing civil society. This uprising and pressure to abolish the long term president demonstrates the strength of the group of opposing individuals in favour of a more democratic society. The ability to offset such a dominate force that has been prevalent in the Egyptian government shows the desire for political reform from citizens in Egypt (Dickerson et al., 2010). Although Egypt shows desire for change, the mere replacement of presidency will not change the public sector. Major structural reform and decentralization will be needed to give the citizens the hope of democratization in an authoritarian society (Boex, 2011).

Alagappa, M. (2004). Civil society and political change in Asia. United States of America: Stanford University Press

Author Unknown. (2008). World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia. United States of America: Marshall Cavendish Corporation

Boex, J. (2011). Democratization in Egypt: The Potential Role of Decentralization. Urban Institute. Retrieved March 15th, 2011 from

DeRouen, K., Bellamy, P. (2008). International security and the United States: an encyclopedia. United States of America: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

Dickerson, M., Flanagan, T., O’Neill, B. (2010). An Introduction to Government and Politics: United States of America: Nelson Education Ltd.

Fahmy, N. (2002). The politics of Egypt: state-society relationship. Canada: Routledge.

Ibrahim, F., Ibrahim, B. (2003). Egypt: an economic geography. Canada: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

Lim, J. (2009). Kim Jong II's Leadership of North Korea. Canada: Routledge.

Makari, P. (2007). Conflict & cooperation: Christian-Muslim relations in contemporary Egypt. United States of America: Syracuse University Press.

Sharp, J. (2009). Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations. United States of America: Diane Publishing Co.

Sullivan, D., Jones, K. (2008). Global security watch--Egypt: a reference handbook. United States of America: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

T’ongsin, Y. (2003). North Korea handbook. United States of America: Heung-Kook Park.


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