It's Never Time

by Bassam Haddad
published in MER248

“It is our great and historic responsibility,” intoned Egyptian President Husni Mubarak on December 26, 2006, “to achieve the essential goal of developing our democracy and political life, while avoiding drifting into uncalculated steps that could threaten the stability of our country and the success of our democratic experience.” The occasion for this solemn pronouncement was the introduction of 34 constitutional amendments, later passed by Parliament, aiming at tightening the regime’s grip on power. To the informed ear, Mubarak’s words were the same old mantra of Arab autocrats: Arab peoples are not prepared for real political reform. It is not time.

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Falluja's Feelings of Exclusion

by Quil Lawrence
published in MER238

Standing in line outside a Falluja polling station on December 15, 2005, a man named Qays spoke the words that the White House had been waiting to hear since the preceding January 30. “We Sunnis made a mistake in the last elections, and the people are suffering for that mistake. Even the armed groups know that.” The mass abstention of Sunni Arabs from the January 30 elections, some heeding the calls of communal leaders for a boycott and others fearing the death threats of insurgents, left them under-represented in the transitional national assembly and, ultimately, marginal to the process of drafting the new Iraqi constitution that passed a national referendum on October 15. “Bringing the Sunnis back in” was the foremost goal of US diplomacy in Iraq in 2005.

Damanhour by Hook and by Crook

by Joshua Stacher
published in MER238

On a November day in the sleepy Egyptian Delta town of Damanhour, around 1,000 townsfolk gathered in the central square to listen to Mustafa al-Fiqqi of the ruling National Democratic Party explain why they should vote for him as their parliamentary representative in two days’ time. Al-Fiqqi is a former ambassador to Austria and serves on the National Council for Human Rights. Prior to the 2005 elections, he was one of ten MPs appointed to their seats by President Husni Mubarak. But many locals were unimpressed with the national prominence of this native son, who had not come home very often since leaving for Cairo some 40 years before. Some in the square grumbled that he had only shown up to campaign two months prior to the polls.

Iran's Reform Dilemma

Within and Against the State

by Ali Mudara | published September 12, 2000

Egypt's Paradoxical Elections

by Mona El-Ghobashy
published in MER238

For undemocratic regimes in a democratic age, elections are an extremely valuable tool. They create opportunities for limited popular participation, disarm domestic and international critics, and enhance political monitoring and control by revealing the relative political strength of government and opposition candidates. Such elections are successful to the extent that they maximize tolerated competition and minimize the residual uncertainty that accompanies even the most managed poll. It is no mystery, then, why authoritarian elites convene elections. The paradox is why they constrain themselves in fixing them.

The New Conservatives Take a Turn

by Farhad Khosrokhavar
published in MER233

The conservative forces that took majority control of Iran’s parliament, or Majles, in the February 2004 elections were not swept into office by a mass movement. Conservative candidates had the help of the Council of Guardians, a body of 12 senior clerics [1] vested by the constitution of the Islamic Republic with the power to overturn acts of parliament, which blocked the candidacy of over 1,000 men and women associated with the reformist trend that held the majority in the Sixth Majles of 2001-2004. Thanks to this intervention, conservatives won the majority of seats, because many Iranians were left with no one for whom to vote.

The New Landscape of Iranian Politics

by Morad Saghafi
published in MER233

After seven turbulent years in which a reformist movement transformed Iran’s political landscape as well as its international image, conservatives recaptured two thirds of the parliament in February 2004. “Victory” for the conservatives was achieved, in large part, by the intervention of the unelected Guardian Council, which succeeded in rejecting the candidacy of 2,400 reformist candidates. The “Tehran spring” -- when Iranians and international observers hoped that reformists could bring about peaceful, democratic transformation of the Islamic Republic -- has faded.

Faded Dreams of Contracted Democracy

by Kevin Begos
published in MER234

Iraq now has an elected provisional national assembly and elected provincial councils. In the end, the $467 million given to a US contractor to build democracy had little to do with these achievements.