Jordan's New "Political Development" Strategy

by Anne Marie Baylouny
published in MER236

“We have a problem here. There is no real [opposition] party except for the Muslim Brotherhood.” [1] So an official of Jordan’s new Ministry of Political Development and Parliamentary Affairs summed up the raison d’etre of his place of employment.

And the Winner Is...

Authoritarian Elections in the Arab World

by Jillian Schwedler , Laryssa Chomiak
published in MER238

The administration of President George W. Bush claims a commitment to promoting democratization in the Arab world, whether through regime change or by pressuring authoritarian leaders through “transformational diplomacy” to open their political systems. It has been tempting for the administration’s supporters to find evidence for the success of these policies in the spate of elections in Arab countries in 2005.

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The Hamas Headache

by Ranjit Singh
published in MER238

Two days before the January 25 Palestinian legislative elections, Birzeit University professor and Hamas campaign adviser Nashat Aqtash found himself in an unusual situation. Bound by US regulations forbidding direct contact with Hamas, the joint National Democratic Institute (NDI)/Carter Center election observer delegation asked Aqtash -- who pointedly describes himself as a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but not of Hamas -- to brief its members on the Islamic organization’s philosophy and electoral activities. After enthusiastically showing several Hamas TV advertisements, Aqtash provided the large group of observers gathered in Ramallah a list of reasons why Hamas may consider a long-term hudna (state of calm), but never a permanent peace with Israel.

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Hamas Risen

by Graham Usher
published in MER238

On January 27, 2006, Fatah activists and Palestinian security personnel converged on the Palestinian Authority’s parliament building in Gaza City. Within minutes, cars were torched, tires set aflame and stones thrown at election banners displaying the visages of victorious Hamas candidates. The cry was for vengeance, particularly against a leadership that had just presided over Palestine’s premier nationalist movement’s worst political defeat in its 47-year history.

Women in the Shadows of Democracy

by Huda Ahmed
published in MER239

“Life would get better.” Women throughout Iraq told themselves that constantly during the first, cautiously hopeful months of the US-British occupation of their country.

As the electricity blinked on and off, the water stopped running and desert-camouflaged tanks churned up the narrow streets of the ancient capital, women consoled themselves with the thought that these troubles could only be temporary. Especially for women, the Iraqi future was bright.

From the Editor

published in MER246

From December 2006 through the late summer of 2007, four foreign policy commentators reached for the same 1980s movie title, Back to the Future, to describe the peregrinations of US Middle East policy in the oft-proclaimed twilight of the neo-conservative moment. There was confusion, however, as to what past was being summoned to replace the present.

Experiments in Multi-Ethnic and Multi-Religious Democracy

by Vickie Langohr
published in MER237

Democracy’s succinct definition, and perhaps its best attribute, is majority rule. But it is unclear that majority rule equates to democracy in places like Lebanon, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries that are contending with past and present religious or ethnic conflict. Clearly, democracy in such diverse societies would minimally require that citizens of all ethnic and religious backgrounds enjoy the same civil and human rights; it would also require that the government refrain from religious or ethnic persecution. A democracy should also allow its citizens to practice their faith or express their cultural traditions, provided such practices do not contradict other fundamental values the state is bound to uphold.

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