Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Blog

By Danielle Malaty

In the midst of one of our nation’s most intense election seasons, Americans are consumed with domestic issues, but on an exclusively domestic level. What many Americans don’t take into consideration is the fact that what happens abroad influences the polls in a very consequential way. On May 23 and 24, Egyptians will head to their polls for the first time to participate in a presidential election where the outcome hasn’t already been determined.

As of now, the election has been what some would describe as a circus, with three of the top candidates already disqualified, and a banned candidate that had his qualification reinstated. The Muslim Brotherhood — after repeatedly stating to the public that they would not run a candidate, ran two, after fearing their top candidate would be disqualified, which he was.

Despite the drama, an election is still being held. The Egyptian election is extremely important for the entire Arab world, and here are 4 reasons why:

1. The Muslim Brotherhood

One surefire way to worry the American public is to psyche them out into thinking that the Muslim Brotherhood is taking over Egypt. This fear does exist all over the Arab world in countries such as Syria, Libya, and Jordan. Citizens of these countries are hard pressed to forget that Hamas grew out of the MB. The MB already controls most of parliament and if it won the presidency, then its grasp on the state would be nearly complete.

2. The Military

The transition from military to civilian rule in Egypt is precarious. The military’s reaction to the elections and its outcome is a crucial point. If the military refuses to permit the election on schedule and if they give up their current presidential powers, then this will have a huge effect on the Arab world. It will essentially bolster the argument in favor of those who believe the military is there to protect the nation's borders, not dictate to its citizens. 

3. Islamism in the Region

What exactly defines an Islamist? Though it is highly unlikely that Egypt will follow Tunisia’s footsteps and become a secular state, religion’s role in the Egyptian political arena is rather toxic and the struggle between what it means to be an Islamist and Islam’s role in Egypt is something that will be debated in other countries trying to figure the same thing out.

4. Transition to a Civilian State

Can Egypt actually transition to a civilian state? During a parliamentary hearing, a member noted that one of the biggest challenges Egypt faces is de-militarization. Electing a former general such as Shafiq could significantly delay de-militarization. If Egypt can transition to a country that is governed by the people, other countries such as Yemen, where the military holds power, will see that de-militarization is possible.

The results of the Egyptian election may potentially provide the U.S. government with a new partner in the form of a civilian president and an elected parliament.  The Egyptian military will probably still maintain extensive influence, but it certainly won’t hold the same amount of power it has at present.  The US may have the chance to devise and implement bi-lateral or multilateral programs that would meet the Egyptian government’s needs for economic assistance and to structure such assistance in ways that provide incentives and builds a constituency for liberal reforms and the rule of law.

This upcoming election season will most certainly be a transformative transition and upheaval; not only for Egyptians awaiting an entire reorganization of their government, but for Americans casting their vote for the President this fall. 

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