21st June, 2012 –
The Egypt presidential elections grabbed the attention of Bahrainis, in part because throughout the 20th century political events in Egypt always caused ripples across the rest of the region. There has been much debate regarding the merits of the candidates and Egyptian political cartoons were widely circulated online.
“Egyptian elections are of great importance towards shaping the future of the region and that is why many Bahrainis have been looking closely to the outcome of the elections” said Mariam, aged 38 from Manama.
“Time for change”
The run-off between former Mubarak ally, Ahmed Shafiq, and the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi has generated much controversy. Bahraini loyalists and opposition alike have shown support for the revolution in Egypt. “We thought the Egyptians needed change, as Egypt is a democracy and not a monarchy, hence it should not be ruled by a president for decades” said Ali, 32 from Riffa.
“I supported the revolution in Egypt since I believe that Egyptians have lived in bad economic conditions and it was about time for change to occur, but the appearance of the Muslim brotherhood makes me regret my support for the revolution” said Khalil, 28 from Manama.
“Sunni equivalent of Iran”
Many Bahrainis from both the opposition and loyalist front fear the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, as they believe it might do more harm than good. “The Muslim Brotherhood has always been the hard-line of Egyptian society and I believe that their empowerment in leading the country might ruin the concept of democracy. If a hard-line Islamist rules Egypt, the country might be dragged down and Egypt might turn into a Sunni equivalent of Iran;” said Sarah, 32 Budaiya.
“We should not fear the Muslim Brotherhood if they will implement the rule of law and help improve standards of living. If Shafiq wins it is considered a hopeless case and they might as well have not had a revolution;” said Omar, 45 Muharraq.
“The situation in Egypt can’t get any worse, the world should wait and see if the Muslim Brotherhood will attain the principles of democracy and equality, Let’s be optimistic” said Hussein, 28 Saar.
Although Shafiq represents the old regime, he is still seen as the better of the two options by many Bahrainis. “We look up to Egypt as the prime example of Arab nationalism and a leader in all walks of life including politics, hence the presidency of Egypt is an important issue to us” said Yousif 37 from Riffa.
The initial outcome of the elections showing Mursi’s victory surprised many Bahrainis. “A country once led by the great Abdulnasser and Sadat, will now be led by an extremist Islamist; I consider this as a disaster, Islamists have failed in politics across the region and this may be another failure” said Hanan, 40 Sehla. Some Bahrainis made fun of Mursi’s ordinary appearance and photos of his wife in heavy, black Islamic garb – imagining her standing next to Michelle Obama!
Many Bahrainis feel that the Muslim Brotherhood has fooled Egyptians by firstly stating that they will not be involved in politics then running for parliamentary elections and winning majority of the seats, later they decided to run for the presidential elections and now they are winning the presidential seat. People in Bahrain feel that there is a hidden agenda by the Muslim Brotherhood since they did not reveal their true intentions from the start.
Sunni Islamists tend to back the Brotherhood, as they share religious perspectives. Many Liberals and Shia see that a secular state under Shafiq would better serve the region. Liberals fear that Egyptians will be deprived of personal freedoms by the Muslim Brotherhood, noting that even though the Brotherhood have made promises not to Islamize society, they have a track record of broken promises.
“Mistake to vote for an Islamist”
“The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ayatollahs in Iran are two faces to the same coin, they will deprive people from basic freedoms and it would be a mistake to vote for an Islamist as president of the Arab world’s most prominent country,” said Ali, a Shia liberal from Saar. Some Bahrainis speculated that Mursi would improve relations with Iran – widely seen as a bad thing.
Egypt has played a vital role regional stability and any political crisis in Egypt is considered of great importance to the Arab world. Bahrainis look forward to a stable Egypt following the Arab Spring that led to a terrifying outcome in other counties like Syria and Libya. However, there is great diversity in views towards the candidates and the implications of either one’s success.