Arab League Secretary General and Egyptian native Amr Moussa hit the campaign trail this week in his quest to become the next Egyptian president. Moussa, who served as foreign minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak from 1991-2001, declared his candidacy the day after the Egyptian constitutional reform panel recommended its far-reaching changes. If adopted, presidential elections would be open to increased competition and presidents would face a two-term limit.
The Arab League leader enjoys wide popularity in Egypt. The country’s first ever transparent political poll, conducted by polling group YouGov Siraj shortly after Mubarak stepped down, found that 49 percent of Egyptians support Moussa’s bid for the presidency. Meanwhile, former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, originally viewed as Mubarak’s main opposition, was supported by less than 2 percent polled.
But Amr Moussa’s bid won’t necessarily bode well for the West or Israel; his popularity largely stems from his scathing criticism of Israel over the years. In last week’s interview with the Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, Moussa recalled, “The foreign ministry during my term suffered from a negative policy on Israel’s part with regards to the peace (treaty). I thought we should be honest with the Israelis and take firm measures against them in the framework of the foreign ministry’s activities.”
And regarding the United States, Moussa stated that Egypt’s influence has faded – while Turkey and Iran’s has increased – because of Cairo’s desire to avoid irritating “major powers.” Moussa then called for a “policy which allows you to stand in the face of American desire on any given issue.”
While Moussa may be a better alternative to ElBaradei, who is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, his popularity underscores the fact that the recent Middle East uprisings will complicate U.S. relations with traditional allies in the region, at least for the short term.