In the wake of the euphoria surrounding last year’s Arab Spring, a more pressing question was the kind of governments that would rule those nations most affected by the popular uprisings. The first and most prominent government to fall during the Arab Spring was that of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. As the Arab world’s largest country by population and its geographic importance, the fall of Mubarak, after nearly 30 years in power, was seen as a turning point in the history of the region. For the past several days, Egyptians have been flocking to the polls to cast their votes in presidential elections. This is the first time in the long and accomplished history of the Arab world that citizens have voted in a presidential election. Often seen as the regional leader in most crises, the eventual success of these elections could serve as a blueprint for other nations still reeling from the aftermath of the Arab Spring such as Libya and Yemen.
I found it rather shocking that in a region of over 20 independent nations and territories, there has never been a popular and free presidential election. For most of its history, the Middle East was governed by monarchs and in more recent times, by hardline dictators (the Assads, Saddam Hussein, etc.,) or religious fundamentalists, namely Iran. Though citizens and transitional governments in Yemen and Libya have found the going tough following their uprisings, Egypt’s elections serve as both an example and to a larger extent a test case for whether democracy can even take hold in a region where it has been non existent. Stay tuned!!