Egypt’s first democratic presidential election in its 5,000-year history signals the opening of a new market for U.S. political consultants that work abroad.
The fact that Egyptians were able to hold this election within fifteen months of the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak is a positive sign and indicates the willingness of the population to accept a democratic process. More importantly, it shows the country has embraced modern political campaigns.
Egypt is the first new political market created by the Arab Spring uprisings. Many of the consultants I work with internationally believe that Egypt, which is set to announce the results of the presidential vote May 29, could grow to be as big of a market for U.S. political consultants as Iraq became after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The exact worth of the Egyptian political market has yet to be determined as democratic political campaigns are still in their infancy in the country. There also remains a significant question of how accepting the country is to foreign political consultants following the treatment of NDI and IRI, whose employees were not allowed to leave Egypt after being accused of meddling in local politics.
While many will view Egypt’s reaction to these non-governmental organizations as deterrent to market entry, the truth is that political consultants risk similar action in virtually every country in the world. It’s a normal work hazard for those of us who work abroad.
Regardless of who wins the presidential election in Egypt—a runoff vote is expected and would be held in June—the groundwork has been laid with this election that can yield years of work for foreign political consultants. New political parties are looking for long-term assistance and advice on how to grow their organizations for future elections, which means plenty of work for political consultants with experience in the Middle East.
Tyler Harber is a partner at Harcom Strategies, an international political consulting firm. Harber has worked on hundreds of federal races in the United States, and has worked with prominent political leaders in more than two-dozen countries.