News / Middle East

Will Egypt Elections Move the Arab World?

Egyptian opposition politician Ayman Nour (L) argues with anti-riot policemen blocking the road in front of his party headquarters, as dozens of protesters chant
Egyptian opposition politician Ayman Nour (L) argues with anti-riot policemen blocking the road in front of his party headquarters, as dozens of protesters chant "freedom" and call for amending the constitution to allow fairer presidential elections, Cair
Heather Murdock

As Egypt gears up for its parliamentary elections this month and scheduled presidential elections next year, potential repercussions in the rest of the Arab world remain unclear.  In Lebanon, some analysts say Egypt's image in the region could be improved by the upcoming elections.

In a posh shopping center in Beirut, locals laugh when asked about the regional impact of the upcoming Egyptian elections.  Corporate lawyer Maher Hoteit says although change in Egypt could positively impact the entire region, he does not think it will happen this time around.

"In my opinion there is no real elections in Egypt.  Because the election means you do not know who is going to be elected.  But in such a regime, it is already known," said Hoteit.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for November 28, and the presidential contest is planned for next September.  Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) is expected to win a majority in parliament, but opposition parties are hoping to gain seats.  

The Egyptian government has promised the elections will be free, fair and reflect the changing will of the people, but rights groups have accused the government of stifling the press and arresting opposition candidate supporters.

American University of Beirut Political Science Professor Hilal Khashan says President Hosni Mubarak's administration is more concerned with holding onto power in Egypt than with leading the Arab world.  Mr. Mubarak has ruled for nearly 30 years. He might run for a sixth 6-year term in 2011.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (File)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (File)

"Egypt has withdrawn from the position of a major regional player into one that is mainly concerned about the creation of a political dynasty," said Khashan.

Research director and senior associate Amr Hamzawy, of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, says Egypt's upcoming elections will not be a step toward democracy because the ruling party decides who can run.  But, in an online video, he says the elections could result in a more diversified government and an improvement in Egypt's sinking image in the Arab world.

"The elections, should they result, not in democratic, but in a more pluralist political dynamic, in a more forward-looking, more confident, Egyptian polity are going to impact positively on Egypt's regional role," Hamzawy said.

But outside a coffee shop in Beirut, this man, a human rights professor at St. Joseph's University, says even if the parliamentary elections change the political landscape in Egypt, it will have minimal impact regionally because it is the Mubarak government that calls the shots abroad.

"I do not know if the Egyptian population is ready for democracy.  Democracy is a tool and not an objective by itself.  So we need to see, 'Is democracy the best solution for the Arab world?" Asked the professor.

After so many years with so little change, he says he doubts current Arab election processes will one day lead to greater freedom and prosperity in Egypt or in the Middle East.    

Like other elections in the region, he calls the elections in Egypt  "window dressing," set up for the benefit of supporters in the Western world.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.