On June 23, 1956, 99.95 percent of Egyptian voters mark their ballots to elect Gamal Abdel Nasser as the first president of the Republic of Egypt. Nasser, who toppled the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 in a military coup, was the only presidential candidate on the ballot. In the same ballot, Nasser’s new constitution, under which Egypt became a one-party socialist state with Islam as the official religion, was approved by 99.8 percent of voters.
Gamal Abdel Nasser was born in Alexandria in 1918. As a youth, he participated in demonstrations against British rule in Egypt. After secondary school, he studied at a law college for several months and then entered the Royal Military Academy. In 1938, he graduated as a second lieutenant. While serving in the Sudan during World War II, he helped found a secret revolutionary organization, the Free Officers, whose members sought to overthrow the Egyptian royal family and oust the British. In 1948, Nasser served as a major in the first Arab-Israeli war and was wounded in action.
On July 23, 1952, Nasser led 89 other Free Officers in an army coup that deposed the regime of King Farouk. A new government was formed by the Nasser-led Revolutionary Command Council, of which Major General Muhammad Naguib was the figurehead leader. In 1954, Nasser emerged from behind the scenes, removed Naguib from power, and proclaimed himself prime minister of Egypt. For the next two years, Nasser ruled as an effective and popular leader and promulgated a new constitution that made Egypt a socialist Arab state, consciously nonaligned with the prevalent communist and democratic-capitalist systems of the Cold War world. On June 23, 1956, Egyptian voters overwhelming approved the new constitution and Nasser’s presidency.