With the second round of Egypt’s presidential elections drawing closer, speculations over the impact of the results on neighboring countries have been rife and apprehensions about the victory of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi seem to prevail in the Gulf region.
If Mohamed Mursi wins the elections, no region will have more cause for concern than the Gulf, said ambassador and former Egyptian deputy foreign minister Sayed Qassem al-Masri.
“There are large numbers of Egyptians living in the Gulf and the majority of them support the Muslim Brotherhood,” he told Al Arabiya’s Presidential Candidate. “This will make the new president keen on maintaining strong ties with Gulf nations.”
This, he added, will especially apply to Saudi Arabia, home to the biggest Egyptian community in the region.
“Relations between Egypt and Saudi are crucial for the stability of the Arab world and any tension between them is automatically transferred to the rest of the region.”
However, Masri explained, it is the shape of these ties that is a source of concern for Gulf nations since they have not dealt with an Islamist government in Egypt before.
“That is why they would prefer a president who is more or less an extension of the old regime.”
Masri argued that for the Gulf, Mubarak’s last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq will most likely maintain the same foreign policies the former regime adopted with its neighboring countries.
“Shafiq’s rise to power is much more reassuring for Gulf nations than Mursi’s.”
For consultant of al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic studies, Hassan Abu Taleb, Gulf nations are not concerned about individuals, but their policies.
“Gulf nations are worried about how Egypt’s foreign policy will be run in the future regardless of who will come to power,” he told Al Arabiya’s Presidential Candidate.
Abu Taleb noted that the political platforms of the two Egyptian presidential candidates are not actually that different on paper, but what matters is what will be implemented on the ground.
According to Abu Taleb, it is important for Gulf nations to know how the new Egyptian president will deal with issues that are crucial for the entire region.
“The Palestinian cause comes on top of these issues and has been of great importance to the region’s security since the time of the Egyptian monarchy. How the new president will deal with it remains to be seen.”
Abu Taleb denied allegations that Gulf nations are worried about what is commonly called as “exporting the revolution.”
“There is no such thing as exporting the revolution. This was a revolution staged by an entire people so there is no specific entity to export it or speak on its behalf.”
Abu Taleb admitted that the large numbers of Egyptians working in Gulf play a major role in shaping relations between Egypt and Gulf nations, but found it unlikely that this would affect political relations or the other way round.
“Even if there are political disagreements, this will not affect Egyptians working in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia.”
An example of such separation, Abu Taleb explained, could be seen during the fallout between late president Anwar Sadat and Arab countries when the former signed a peace treaty with Israel.
“At the time, political disputes did not affect other aspects of the relation between Egypt and the Arab world in general or Saudi Arabia in particular.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)