Lebanon’s Post-Doha Political Theater

by Stacey Philbrick Yadav | published July 23, 2008

After 18 months of political paralysis punctuated by episodes of civil strife, Lebanon finally has a “national unity” cabinet—but the achievement has come at a steep price. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and new President Michel Suleiman announced the slate for the 30-member cabinet on July 11, six weeks, and much agonizing and public criticism, after Lebanon’s major political factions agreed on Suleiman’s presidential candidacy and principles of power sharing at a summit in the Qatari capital of Doha. As with much else in Lebanon, however, the words “national unity” are sorely at odds with reality. If anything, the politicking behind the composition of this cabinet has deepened the polarization of the country.

Livni in Principle and in Practice

by Peretz Kidron | published September 30, 2008

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, the sitting Israeli prime minister spoke more plainly than ever before in public about what will be required of Israel in a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians and Syria. In a September 29 interview with the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Ehud Olmert said that, to achieve peace, “we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories” that have been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 war, including most of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Particularly coming from Olmert, who long opposed the notion of swapping land for peace, these words might have inspired hope that deals on the Palestinian or Syrian fronts were at hand.

Behind Turkey’s Presidential Battle

by Gamze Çavdar | published May 7, 2007

“This is a bullet fired at democracy,” snapped Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan, Turkey’s prime minister and chairman of the country’s ruling party, in reaction to the May 1 ruling by the Constitutional Court. The court had validated a maneuver by the opposition party in Parliament to block the nomination of Erdoğan’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gül, to accede to the presidency of the Turkish Republic. To deny the ruling party the quorum it needed to make Gül president, the opposition deputies simply stayed home. The pro-government parliamentarians voted on the candidate anyway, but the Constitutional Court agreed with the opposition’s contention that the balloting was illegal—and thus null and void.

Dual War: The Legacy of Ariel Sharon

by Yoav Peled | published March 22, 2006

The elections scheduled for March 28, 2006 will conclude what has got to be one of the more bizarre campaigns in Israel’s history. The series of totally unexpected events began with Amir Peretz’s surprise victory over Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres in the race for the Labor Party leadership. Peretz immediately withdrew Labor from the coalition government, forcing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to call early elections.

Salih’s Road to Reelection

by Gregory Johnsen | published January 13, 2006

Following six months of rumor and speculation in Yemen, President Ali Abdallah Salih did the expected and announced that he would stand for reelection in the presidential contest scheduled for September 2006. Salih accepted the nomination of his ruling General People’s Congress party on December 17, 2005, during its three-day conference in the southern port city of Aden. The conference, which had been postponed twice to allow Salih to return from state visits abroad, was largely a scripted affair, with few surprises, save for when the president tried and failed to catch a pigeon that landed at his table.

Controlled Reform in Egypt

Neither Reformist nor Controlled

by Issandr El Amrani | published December 15, 2005

Winter of Lebanon’s Discontents

by Jim Quilty | published January 26, 2007

In the two months since the standoff between the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and the Hizballah-led opposition began in earnest, the atmosphere in the Lebanese capital of Beirut has oscillated between ambient anxiety and incongruous routine. Tensions exploded on January 25, when four Lebanese were killed and over 150 wounded in street fighting that began on the grounds of Beirut Arab University near the neighborhood of Tariq Jadideh, and largely pitted Sunnis against Shi‘a.

The Election Yemen Was Supposed to Have

by Gregory Johnsen | published October 3, 2006

It was supposed to be the election that changed everything. The “90 percent presidency,” wherein the incumbent of 28 years won successive terms in office by laughably large margins, would be relegated to the past. Instead, a more credible accounting of the popular will would prove to Western governments and institutions that Yemen was capable of holding a vote that was both fiercely contested and fair. That Yemen’s presidential election on September 20 would also leave the status quo firmly in place was the unspoken caveat.