The surprising electoral success of Ahmed Shafiq has many Egyptians worried about the Mubarak-era elite holding on to power, but at least one vestige of that era comes to an end tonight as a 31-year state of emergency, first imposed after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, is finally lifted.
The law gave authorities extensive powers including the right to detain people indefinitely without charge, prohibit protests and censor the media.[...]
The emergency law was a key feature under ousted President Mubarak, who repeatedly broke promises to lift it.
In January the head of Scaf, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, partially eased the law except in the cases of "thuggery", without explaining exactly what that meant.
The Interior Ministry is currently dealing with at least 188 people under the law at the moment, according to campaign group Human Rights Watch.
States frequently impose state of emergency over part or all of their territory in response to crises -- in recent weeks both Sudan and Peru have implemented them -- but in some parts of the Middle East and North Africa, "states of emergency" can become virtually the norm for decades at a time. Algeria had one for 19 years, which was lifted (with some reservations) in early 2011. Part of Turkey were governed under a state of emergency for 15 years until 2002. Syria's Bashar al-Assad lifted a 50-year state of emergency in April 2011, which may say something about just how significant a development lifting a state of emergncy is. Tunisia imposed a state of emergency after the overthrow of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, which was recently renewed for the sixth time.
One of the weirder states of emergency is in Israel. The country has technically been in a state of emergency since 1948, which is renewed anually by the Knesset. The Israeli government's reluctance to end the emergency may actually have less to do with war or terrorism than with preserving its ability to pass "emergency ordinances" ensuring its "continued supervision over such issues as ice cream production, show tickets and amniocentesis tests."
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