Having got rid of Ismail Sidqi pasha, the powerful Prime Minister whom he accused of being a dictator in the making, King Fouad searched for a new Prime Minister and Cabinet that would carry all his wishes and that would be a “Royal Court Cabinet”.  His choice fell on Abdel Fattah Yahya Pasha, who was then vacationing in Europe, to lead that Cabinet.  For the rest of the King’s reign Sidqi Pasha disappeared from the political scene vowing never to be involved in Parties Politics, a vow he kept until the end of his life.  Sidqi Pasha incarnated the 1930 Constitution and the “SHAAB(People) Party and, with his resignation, the agony of the Party and the Constitution began! 

Born in Alexandria to a prominent Alexandrian family, his father was Ahmad Yahya Pasha, a veteran Wafdist and one of the founding fathers of that Party, he received a solid legal studies and, after a successful career in the judiciary, he chose to pursue a Political life by joining hands with Sidqi Pasha.  He helped in establishing the SHAAB Party of which he became Vice-Chairman and served as Minister of Justice in the first Sidqi Pasha Cabinet.  He resigned his Cabinet Post, along with Ali Maher Pasha, as a result of the El-Badari incident. 

On September 27, 1933,King Fouad appointed him to the post of Prime-Minister, a post he kept until November 14, 1934, when he resigned as a result of a conflict with the British High Commissioner.  Until his death in 1951,Yahya Pasha lived a semi obscure political life and a successful business one.

As mentioned above, the King appointed Yahya Pasha as Prime-Minister (1) when he was out of the Country and without consulting with him, he also chose the Cabinet Members, prior to the return of the appointed Premier, as follows:  Abdel Fattah Yahya Pasha as Prime-Minister and Minister Of Foreign Affairs, Ahmad Ali Pasha as Minister Of Justice, Mohammad Naguib Al-Gharabli Pasha as Minister of Religious Affairs (AWQAF), Mohammad Helmi Issa Pasha as Minister Of Public Instruction, Ibrahim Fahmi Karim Pasha as Minister Of Transportation, Mahmoud Fahmi Al-Qaysi Pasha as Minister Of Interior, Ali Al-ManzalawiBey as Minister Of Agriculture, Salib Sami Bey as Minister Of War And Navy, Abdel-Azim Rashed Pasha as Minister Of Public Works and Hasan Sabri Bey as Minister Of Finances.  On his return to Egypt, Yahya Pasha thus faced a “fait accompli” situation and the King chosen Cabinet was sworn in on September 27, 1933.

The new Cabinet adopted two main objectives:  to minimize the stature of Ismail Sidqi Pasha, the previous Prime-Minister, and the role he played during his Premiership, and to cajole the Opposition by adopting the policy of divide and rule mastered by the British occupier.  While the Cabinet succeeded in its first objective, it failed in the second after the Opposition Parties united in their criticism of the Cabinet Policies.

The Sidqi Cabinet having distributed lands, in lieu of pensions, to those civil servants who were supportive to the then Prime-Minister, the Yahya Cabinet submitted the matter to a committee with the objective of abolishing that decision;  the committee canceled the land distributions and those public servants who refused to return the land were simply fired.  The Cabinet decreed that appointed Prime-Ministers and Cabinet Members should, in the future, swear allegiance to the King and Nation (King before Nation).

On the positive side, the Cabinet decided to further reduce, by 10%, the lease of agricultural lands, and appropriated the amount of one million pounds to guarantee the farmers’ loans.  It also called the Parliament to resume its Constitutional activities as from December 14, 1933.  The Cabinet agreed to establish the system of “commercial register”.   Another decree imposed a tax on the theaters, night clubs and other places of amusements, including those owned by foreigners, it also imposed a yearly tax on the possession of cars, even those owned by foreigners after the huge increase of the amount of cars in the Country.  A 15 thousand pounds budget was approved by the Cabinet for the purpose of studying and preparing a project for a new Delta Dam to replace the old Mohammad Ali Dam (AL-QANATER AL-KHAYRYAH)

A budget of 60 thousand pounds was approved to buy and refurbish the palace of Princess Neematallah Kamaluddine for the use of the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs. December 31, 1933 and January 1, 1934 were declared official holidays in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the National Courts and the one thousand Hejire year anniversary of the establishment of the Azhar University.  Last but not least, the Cabinet approved the 1934/35 budget as follows:  31 millions six hundred and sixty two thousand pounds receipts and 31 millions six hundred and thirty two thousand pounds expenditures with a surplus of thirty thousand pounds!!

In October 1934 the ailing health of King Fouad was getting from bad to worse and, since the position of “CHEF DU CABINET ROYAL”had been abolished according to the 1930 Constitution, certain members of the King’s entourage took it upon themselves to issue orders in the name of the King which enraged the British Deputy High Commissioner.  The British Official submitted to the Cabinet, in the name of his Country, two urgent demands:  the appointment of responsible “CHEF DU CABINET ROYAL” and the dismissal of two Cabinet Members well known for their strong devotion to the Royal Palace!! The Cabinet promptly appointed Ahmad Ziwar Pasha, a favorite of the occupying Nation, to the requested position at the Royal Cabinet but dragged its feet when it came to the dismissal of the two Ministers.  But, when the Prime-Minister refused to divulge the names of “THE REGENCY COUNCIL”, which would carry the King’s duties after his expected death, the cooperation between the Cabinet and the High Commissioner’s Office became mission impossible, Abdel Fattah Yahya Pasha had no choice but to submit his and his Cabinet’s resignation on November 6, 1934.


Since the cancelation of the 1923 Constitution and the promulgation of the 1930 one, the political situation in Egypt was bad.  Demonstrations and strikes, particularly amongst students and civil servants, did not stop.  Sidqi Pasha, who ruled with an iron glove, managed to partially control the situation but, during the Yahya Pasha Premiership the situation got much worse and at the resignation of his Cabinet the British Office of The High Commissioner breathed with more relief and imposed on the Royal Cabinet the appointment of Mohammad Tawfiq Nasim Pasha who was well known for his close relationship with the occupying Power.

Nasim accepted his nomination on two conditions:  to stop the allegiance to the 1930 Constitution during the sworn in ceremony of the Cabinet and, more important, the dismissal of the Parliament.  These conditions having been accepted by the ailing King, the first thing that the new Cabinet did, after its official sworn in ceremony, was to obtain a Royal decree abolishing the 1930 Constitution and another decree dismissing the two Chambers of the Parliament on November 30, 1934.  For 13 months the Country stayed without a Constitution!!  During that period the new Cabinet did not stop its consultations with the Royal Palace and, more importantly, the Office of the British High Commissioner about writing a new Constitution that could be a happy medium between the 1923 and the 1930 Constitution.  At the end and after intense popular demonstration, some of them quite bloody, the Cabinet and Royal Palace agreed to return to the 1923 Constitution.  On December 12, 1935, a Royal Decree officially returned the Country to its beloved 1923 Constitution.  During those thirteen months of turmoil, the Cabinet closed down the University for an unspecified period, on December 8, 1935, and formed a committee to study the amount of indemnities to be paid for those businesses that were vandalized during the unrest.  Two weeks after the return to the 1923 Constitution, a Royal Decree authorizing new Parliamentary elections was issued.  The people considered those steps as a popular victory and the situation in the streets calmed somewhat down.  More encouraging was a Cabinet decision for the return to their previous positions those civil servants who were fired during the Sidqi Pasha and Yahya Pasha Cabinets.  Amongst those rehabilitated public servants were Dr. Taha Husein and Dr. Abdel Razeq Al-Sanhouri!!

The Cabinet agreed to turn the Administration of Commerce, which was part of the Ministry Of Finances, into an independent Ministry to be called Ministry of Commerce And Industry.  On December 20, 1934, a Royal Decree was promulgated establishing the new Ministry and Naguib Al-Hilali Bey was sworn in as its new Minister.

To encourage the arts, the Cabinet agreed to establish a national theatre with a 15 thousand pounds budget and appointed Zaki Tulaymat, an employee at the Royal Opera, to start and run the project with a monthly salary of twenty pounds to be paid only during the acting season. 

But, above all, the Cabinet felt rightly that a world war would start sooner than later and, since Mussolini’s troops were amassed at the border between Tripolitania (Libya) and Egypt, the Cabinet extended the services of one thousand and one hundred and six non-commissioned officers and soldiers for an extra six months of service; it allocated the amount of 38 thousand pounds to the Ministry of War (as it was then called) for the purchase five extra military planes of the latest model, and an extra fifty thousand pounds for war preparation.

The Ministry Of Public Health saw its budget increased by 25 thousand pounds for the purchase of material that would contribute to protect the people against possible air attacks.  Finally, the Cabinet prohibited the payments in gold on all international transactions.

Because of the deteriorating international situation and the fear of a huge military conflict that would certainly involve the Middle-East, Great Britain felt that the time has come to settle its conflicts with Egypt once and for all.  To achieve that aim it called for negotiations between the two countries; it also felt that Nasim Pasha, because of his unpopularity, was not the right man to negotiate with and urged the Royal Palace to replace him. 

As usual, the dying King obliged, invited Nasim Pasha over and explained to him that he was not the right person to start the negotiation with Great Britain because he did not have the support of the elected Parliament which, at the end, will have to ratify the reached agreement.  Nasim Pasha understood the hint and resigned his Cabinet on January 30, 1936.

(To be continued)

Kamal Karim Katba









Arthur Goldschmidt Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Middle East History at Pennsylvania State University. He is (with Lawrence Davidson) the author of A Concise History of the Middle East, Eighth Edition, and is the author as well of Modern Egypt: Foundation of a Nation-State, Second Edition. He is the recipient of the Amoco Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching and the 2000 Middle East Studies Association Mentoring Award. Goldschmidt has been known during his years at Penn State for having created a series of courses that stimulated undergraduate interest in Middle Eastern history and culture. Educated at Colby College and Harvard University, Goldschmidt has held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Faculty Research fund, among others. He is author of numerous books and many articles and essays on Middle Eastern history. He was an elected faculty senator, chaired its committee on student affairs and served as secretary. He chaired the Middle East Studies committee for 25 years. He also was instrumental in helping to devise courses in non-western history and in developing the successor to those courses for the general education curriculum.

In addition, he is one of the most respected authorities on Egypt's Modern history. Prof. Goldschmidt is a frequent contributor on the Internet, including the prestigious and oldest forum: Egypt Net.


For meaningful and serious discussions about the History of Modern Egypt,  join Egypt Net group (The oldest  continuous Egyptian forum on the internet since 1985.) 



© Kamal Katba 2010


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