This Day In History: Nasser Is Elected President of Egypt (1952)

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Today in history Nasser was elected leader of Egypt. He was hugely popular with the common Egyptian people. He won the presidential election by a landslide. Nasser first came to power in a military coup that ousted the Egyptian king, who was widely seen as a puppet of the west. Nasser was the only candidate in the election. However, he was still genuinely popular. In the same election, there was a slow a referendum on the nature of the Egyptian constitution. The Egyptian people voted to accept a new socialist and secular constitution. Egypt became a one-party state with Islam as the state religion. The new constitution also expressly claimed sovereignty over the Suez Canal and this was later to cause trouble with the west. The Suez Canal was at this stage still under the effective control of the British.

Gamal Abdel Nasser was born in the city of Alexandria in 1918.  As a boy, he had taken part in nationalist demonstrations against the British. The British had been the de-facto rulers of Egypt since the late nineteenth century.  Later he attended the Royal Military Academy as a cadet. In 1938 he graduated and became a lieutenant in the Egyptian army. He served in the Sudan in the Second World War and here he founded a revolutionary group, composed of Egyptians opposed to British domination of their country.  Nasser wanted to overthrow the Egyptian Royal Family, also. In 1948, he served as an officer in the Arab-Israeli War and was wounded.

In 1952, Nasser led n an army coup that deposed the government of King Farouk.  A new government was formed and it was headed by Nasser. He sought to modernize Egypt and to make it a truly independent country.  His official position was that of Prime Minister. He adopted a policy of neutrality in the Cold War and was not allied to the east or to the west.

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Israeli tanks destroyed in the Sinai (1956)

Soon after his election, Nasser was involved in a confrontation with Britain and the United States. These countries refused to finance a dam that Nasser believed that this dam was necessary for the modernization of the country. The west refused after Nasser had obtained arms from the Soviet Union. In response Nasser was to make plans to nationalize the canal. The Suez Canal was of great strategic importance for the British and the French and it was important for international trade. This dispute dragged on for several years. In 1956, the British with the French seized control of the Suze Canal leading to fighting. Israel invaded Sinai as a result of a secret agreement with Paris and London. After international pressure, the Anglo-French forced left the Canal Zone. In 1957 the canal was in the hands of the Egyptian government and this was Nasser’s greatest hour.

In the aftermath, of the Sinai crisis, he was widely seen as the leader of Arab nationalists all over the Middle East.

 

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