Egypt’s Presidential Election and the Future

I am so thrilled to be in Egypt at this moment in its history. Yesterday and today are amongst some of the most profoundly important days ever in Egypt, as the country has just held its first free presidential election in over 30 years. I have hope for Egypt but have to wonder, along with everyone else who cares about this country, is the new president going to bring positive, or negative changes? The answer depends, of course, on who’s elected.

Joseph Nazir holding up his purple finger in Dahab after he voted in Egypt's Presidential Election

Egyptians received a purple finger after voting

I first visited the Sinai just six months after the January 2011 revolution and found that Egyptians were hopeful for a better future. They had proven as a group that they were far more powerful than they’d ever imagined when they ignited a revolution and successfully overthrew their 30-year dictatorial regime in the beginning months of 2011. The massive change they were undergoing must in the end result in a better life for all, they seemed to believe.

By the time I returned to Dahab in the Sinai at the end of October last year, though, people were already losing hope. The country had become unstable. People were exercising their new-found power by starting trouble en masse when they disagreed with the temporary ruling military government. Many Egyptians were suffering financially. Egypt has long relied on tourists for income, but most of them vanished when the revolution began. They still have not returned.

50 million Egyptians were expected to turn out at the polls this Wednesday and Thursday. Many, though, were kept away, though, because Egypt, unlike most other countries during election time, did not allow absentee ballots. Egyptians were only allowed to vote by personally appearing at the poll in the town in which they were registered, with no option available to cast a ballot anywhere else inside the country. This made voting impossible for the millions of Egyptians still in the floundering tourism industry, most of whom live far away from home. Tour company owners could not afford to close their doors to give their staff the two or three days off to make their ways back home, take the time to vote, then travel back to the town in which they now live.

Due to the lack of absentee ballots in Egypt, approximately 5 million people were effectively prohibited from voting. Fortunately, the majority of Egyptians were allowed to vote, and tens of millions showed their care for their country and desire to shape their own futures by showing up at the polls.

An Egyptian's purple finger after voting

Egypt had many faults under the 30-year regime of ex-president Hosni Mubarak, but at least the country was stable. No matter who becomes the new president, he will likely change Egypt. Any political shift in this part of the world is always a concern to the rest of the world as Middle Eastern leaders are frequently not fond of western democracies, and they’re certainly not enamored with their neighboring Jewish country of Israel.

There might well be no one winner of the May presidential election. Unless one of the candidates garner 51 percent of the votes, there is going to be a runoff on June 16 and 17. Whether the president is elected in May or June, change is coming to Egypt. Are these inevitable changes going to be for the good for Egypt? They really must be, as Egyptians are depending on it. Will they be good for the rest of the world? We depend on it too.

What do you think? Will Egypt’s new president bring about positive change for Egypt? What about the country’s relationship with the rest of the world? Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Steve Whitty says:

    A lot will depend on how the military will react to the result. They have the potential to stir things up. Also the west has to accept the result even if it is not the one they are looking for.

  2. Sabina says:

    Hi, Steve – The Muslim Brotherhood also have the potential to stir things up. They’re very powerful and have so many people voting for them simply because they’re not the old regime. I think Egyptians need to be very careful about the upcoming runoffs and think realistically about what the future might hold if the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mursi is elected or if the Mubarak-era Prime Minister Shafiq is elected. A lot of Egyptians tell me they want Mubarak back, so difficult have times been since the revolution. Taking positive steps toward the future might just mean embracing a little of the past by electing Shafiq.

  3. This is such an exciting time, you are so fortunate to share it with Egypt and Egyptians. I’m thinking happy thoughts for Egypt and for the rest of the world. I really hope this new chapter in the life of this fascinating country will be for the better for both its people and its neighbors.
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  4. Sabina says:

    Ayelet – I hope so too. The runoff elections in June promise to shape the direction in which Egypt is going to head. I’ll not only hope but pray they head down a positive path.

  5. Kieran Chapman says:

    A really interesting look at the aftermath of the Arab Spring, its a shame there hasn’t been more coverage / discussion of what’s still happening in Egypt. I agree with you that change can bring unease, but I hope that the change people in Egypt have fought for will ultimately be positive.

    I guess it becomes a question of ideologies, is it better to be ruled poorly by a dictator, or ruled poorly by the devil you choose through democracy. Maybe we’ll all learn something through watching what happens in Egypt in the next few years!

    Great post, always good to see someones opinions, especially when they have a good sense of the local culture and are happy to discuss rather than report with bias, well done!

  6. Sabina says:

    Thanks a lot, Kieran. The people of Egypt really are still suffering and struggling in the post-revolution aftermath. Tourism is the country’s second largest source of income, and of course it has now been damaged – damage which will no doubt last for years.

    The new president, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi, has said that he is going to focus part of his first 100 days in office on reigniting the tourism flame in Egypt. Other countries and cities under Islamic rule – namely Turkey and Dubai – are doing extremely well tourism-wise. Hopefully Egypt will be able to learn from them how to be inviting to tourists.

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