"Transfer" and the Discourse of Racism

by Ken Brown
published in MER157

Saturday night I decided to go to a campaign meeting of the Moledet Party in Kfar Shalem, a rough neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv. In the past, houses there were periodically served with demolition orders by the Tel Aviv municipality; in 1982 one inhabitant pulled a gun on demolition crews who had come to tear down an illegally-built extension to his house. Some people consider the violence of the state in Kfar Shalem as a form of racism against Oriental Jews. The slogan “Askhe-Nazis!” with a swastika beside it appeared on the walls of mainly Ashkenazi (Jews of European origin) neighborhoods of north Tel Aviv, as well as on memorials of the 1948 War of Independence.

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The Elections, the Peace Camp and the Left

by Asher Davidi
published in MER157

The November 1988 Israeli election confirmed a pattern set in 1981 and 1984: the vote was nearly equal between the two large bourgeois parties, the Likud and the Alignment (Labor), and both these parties lost strength to their left and right.

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Jordan's Election

A New Era?

by Philip Robins
published in MER164

The pundits got it wrong. They had predicted that the Jordanian general election of November 8 would result in the overwhelming return of traditional candidates with only a smattering of opposition deputies, enough to provide a vigorous, vocal check on government, but marginal in terms of setting a political agenda and molding policy.

This prevailing view among the liberal, educated, middle classes, Palestinian and Jordanian alike, who comprise the kingdom’s commentators and analysts, was also the view of the royal palace. Inevitably it became the view of the foreign embassies, and the view of foreign journalists who rely so heavily on diplomatic briefings.

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Egyptian Politics Upended

by Mona El-Ghobashy | published August 20, 2012

When he took office on June 30, President Muhammad Mursi of Egypt looked to have been handed a poisoned chalice. The ruling generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had tolerated a clean presidential election but then had hollowed out the presidency, saddling Mursi with an executive’s accountability but little of the corresponding authority. The country resigned itself to the grim reality of dual government, with an elected civilian underdog toiling in the shadow of mighty military overlords. Then, just over a month later, Mursi turned the tables, dismissing Egypt’s top generals and taking back the powers they had usurped. The power play crystallizes the new dynamic of Egyptian politics: the onset of open contestation for the Egyptian state.

Ordering Egypt's Chaos

by Joshua Stacher | published June 29, 2012

To the left of a makeshift stage in a Cairo five-star hotel, the waiting continued. Ahmad Shafiq, the last prime minister of the deposed Husni Mubarak and one of two remaining candidates in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential race, was three hours late. Fewer than 60 hours were left until voting was to start in the June 16-17 runoff. But the atmosphere, beside the burgundy backdrop with its decorative maple leafs flanking the podium, felt more like a garden-variety junket than a last-minute campaign stop. It was not clear why Shafiq would choose on this of all days to address the Egyptian-Canadian Business Council.

Sightings of the Egyptian Deep State

by Issandr El Amrani | published January 1, 2012

The turbulence that has hit Egypt since mid-November seems, at first glance, mostly a testament to the poor performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in handling the transition away from the rule of Husni Mubarak. Having assumed power on February 10, the SCAF moved quickly to attain the stamp of popular legitimacy through a March 19 referendum on constitutional amendments. Since then, however, the conclave of generals has stumbled over the flawed logic of its own plan for the transition, as well as ad hoc decision making and a high-handed, dismissive attitude toward the new politics of the country. The SCAF’s plan, in brief, was to engineer a restoration of civilian rule that shielded the army’s political and economic prerogatives from civilian oversight, and perhaps bolstered those roles, yielding a system not unlike the “deep state” that prevailed for decades in Turkey. Such was the system in Egypt, in fact, under Mubarak.

Egypt's Intense Election Eve

by Nate Wright | published November 10, 2011

Residents of Cairo’s Darb al-Ahmar neighborhood have gathered at a streetside café on a late October Friday night to get their first glimpse of a political party founded by revolutionary activists. Men play backgammon and sip from their glasses of tea as members of al-‘Adl, one of 35 new parties vying for a role in Egypt’s next government, rush to set up a table and microphone at the café entrance. The first round of parliamentary elections, scheduled to commence November 28, is only a month away, but the campaign season has just begun. In the eight months since widespread demonstrations and Egypt’s military leadership forced former President Husni Mubarak to flee to Sharm al-Sheikh, the country’s political class has been caught up in divisive battles over election laws, party alliances and timetables -- all complicated by the ruling military council’s thorough mishandling of the rocky transition. As a result, many parties have turned to electioneering with the sudden intensity of a student doing his homework on the morning ride to school. When it makes its debut at the Nasif café, al-‘Adl will be only the fourth party that Darb al-Ahmar residents have seen in their area. The others -- the Muslim Brothers, al-Wafd and al-Ghad -- are all Mubarak-era opposition parties with experience running in parliamentary elections.

Algeria's Elections Show Islamist Strength

by Arun Kapil
published in MER166

The June 12 municipal and provincial elections, the first multi-party election held in Algeria since independence in 1962, delivered a stunning defeat to the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN). The victorious Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) has now emerged as the leading opposition party and principal threat to the regime of President Chadli Benjedid.

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Tunisia Moves to the Next Stage

by Issandr El Amrani , Ursula Lindsey | published November 8, 2011

Tunisia was the first Arab country to have a pro-democracy uprising in the winter of 2010-2011, and now it is the first to have held an election. Tunisians took to the polls on October 23 to choose a constituent assembly that will be tasked with drafting the country’s first democratic constitution and appointing a new transitional government. The elections were judged free and fair by a record number of domestic and foreign observers, testimony to the seriousness with which the interim government approached the poll. In the eyes of many observers, Tunisia is lighting the way forward where others -- notably Egypt -- are faltering.

Syria's Parliamentary Elections

Remodeling Asad's Political Base

by Volker Perthes
published in MER174

On May 22 and 23, 1990, Syrian voters were called to the polls to elect a new parliament, the fifth People’s Council (Majlis al-Sha‘b) since Hafiz al-Asad came to power in 1970. The new Majlis would consist of a total of 250 instead of the 195 members in previous councils. The official media made clear that President Asad had “granted” these additional seats to encourage independents to stand as candidates. The Baath Party and its allies in the six-party National Progressive Front (al-Jabha al-Wataniyya al-Taqaddumiyya), which held some 160 seats in the outgoing council, would content itself with about that number in the new assembly; roughly a third of all seats would be reserved for independent, non-party candidates.