EPA Making a choice A woman casts her ballot on the third day of voting in Cairo yesterday. The voting was extended to the third day. Image Credit: EPA

Dubai: As Egyptians voted in the presidential elections this week, many eyes outside the borders had been watching. Not because there are doubts over the outcome of the elections, but because the results would have implications on many other regional issues in many Arab countries, analysts said.

While it is almost certain that former army chief Abdul Fattah Al Sissi will win the election against his rival Hamdeen Sabahi, analysts explain that the focus on internal affairs wouldn’t stop the new Egyptian leadership from putting its foreign policy back on track.

“Egypt has an ancient history and a large population. If a song becomes a hit in Egypt, it will do so across the region, so imagine its political weight,” said Mohammad Abdul Salam, Academic Director of Future Centre for Studies and Advance Research in Abu Dhabi.

“If a high turnout was recorded and high votes were given to Al Sissi, this will enhance the current trend which is moving towards lessening the weight and influence of religious groups in power across the region,” the Egyptian analyst Abdul Salam said in an interview with Gulf News.

At the same time, Al Sissi highly anticipated victory would probably lead to “a short-term violent reaction from [Islamist] religious groups. ”Egypt, which has a population of nearly 80 million people — almost one quarter of the total Arab population, had two revolutions in a span of three years.

In early 2011, former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted. And in mid 2013, elected president Mohammad Mursi from the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted following a massive public movement supported by the army, then headed by Al Sissi. Both Mubarak and Mursi were put in jail are facing many charges including corruption and killing of protesters.

“What happened in Egypt [in the past three years] has caused a rift across the region,” said Issandr Al Amrani, North Africa project director at Crisis Group International. It had consequences on relations between countries which supported the Brotherhood and those which supported the army.

Egypt’s new president will have to deal with a myriad of internal challenges, mainly related to improving security and the deteriorating economic situations.

Most of the future challenges in Egypt will be “domestically-focused for some time because of the many [existing] challenges, but I think Egypt’s foreign policy will come back on track and some issues can’t afford to be ignored,” said Al Amrani. He echoed similar expectations by other analysts of resumption of the Egyptian regional role after the elections.

Nagging issues, analysts explained, including the situation in neighbouring countries and cities, namely Libya, Sudan and Gaza. Libya is in chaos, Sudan still searches for stability and Hamas is still in control of Gaza who recently decided to reconcile with the Palestinian National Authority. “Egypt’s absence from regional politics is very harmful for internal, political and economic situations [of Egypt],” said Musa Shteiwi, director of Centre for Strategic Studies of University of Jordan. The impact of the Egyptian presidential elections, Abdul Salam concluded, is not expected to be direct, but rather “based on giving a model that others see appropriate and then it will be contagious to the neighbours.”