Monday, January 10, 2005

More on Middle Eastern democratisation

Having noted in earlier posts the increasing pressure for Arab democratisation in Syria and Egypt, I was pleased to read Joshua Muravcik in the LA Times:

For the Arab world, 2005 may be remembered as the year of the election. Today, Palestinians will choose a new president. Three weeks later, Iraqis will elect a national assembly. This will be only the beginning. Palestinians will go to the polls no fewer than three more times before the year is out, to elect municipal councils, a new legislative body and new leadership within Fatah, the dominant political party. The Iraqi assembly, in addition to forming a government, will write a constitution that will be put to a national referendum in the fall, followed by new elections.


From February through April, Saudi Arabia will hold municipal elections throughout the kingdom, a landmark step of popular participation for an absolutist regime that has imprisoned academics merely for advocating constitutional monarchy.This spring, Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections.

These are nothing new, but for the first time, a multiethnic opposition to the Syrian puppet regime might actually win a significant share. Late in the year, Egypt will hold parliamentary elections, the first step toward choosing a president. The presidential outcome is noncompetitive and foreordained if, as expected, Hosni Mubarak seeks another term. But restlessness with the rule of the 76-year-old chief who has held the presidency for more than 24 years may result in livelier-than-usual contests for parliamentary seats. Elections are also scheduled in Yemen and Oman.

I think proclaiming the birth of Arab democracy is to overstate the case somewhat. It's light at the end of the tunnel, but there's still a lot of tunnel to negociate yet.