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.

A Campaign Rally in Sanaa

by David Warburton
published in MER185

Just within the walls of the old city of Sanaa, southeast of Bab al-Sha‘ub, a large tent has been erected in an open square. People are milling about -- mostly children, but also men and women. The candidate is talking to a group of people as one of her opponents drives by in a black Mercedes. The candidate, Ra’ufa Hasan al-Sharqi, has her own white Volvo parked discreetly some distance away.

The neighborhood is a poor one with the walls of all the houses covered with posters for several candidates -- but not for al-Sharqi. The independent candidate explains that displaying her posters on residential houses is forbidden, and how could she claim the right to make laws as a deputy if she had broken the law in order to become one.

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The Yemeni Elections Up Close

by Renaud Detalle
published in MER185

Candidate registration for Yemen’s first-ever multi-party elections opened on March 29 in a climate of lively polemics against the president’s party, the General People’s Congress (GPC). The GPC’s permanent committee had approved its electoral program on March 27. That same evening it appropriated an hour of television and radio time to present its proposals, shoving aside the law which stipulated that access to the official media was subject to the provisions of the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) in the framework of equality between the parties. The head of the SEC’s information subcommittee immediately distributed a letter condemning this violation and threatened to resign. The GPC subsequently felt compelled to play by the rules.

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From the Editors

published in MER198

The first month of 1996 saw election monitors and “democratization” consultants falling over each other in the West Bank. Along with the flood of media witnesses, they certified that, in former President Jimmy Carter’s words, “The Palestinian people had an historic opportunity to choose their leaders yesterday, and they did so with enthusiasm and a high degree of professionalism.”

Turkey's Elections and the Kurds

by Hamit Bozarslan
published in MER199

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Electoral Systems and Democracy

Palestinian and South African Elections Compared

by Hady Amr
published in MER201

This year has witnessed some important electoral developments in the Middle East and surrounding areas, with elections being held in Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Bangladesh and Bosnia. [1] Some of these elections have been especially interesting in terms of what they have revealed about the potential for electoral systems -- the rules by which winners are determined -- to shape public policy, communal identity and how groups -- be they ethnic, religious or political -- interact. The different electoral systems newly instituted in Palestine and South Africa have had a profound impact on shaping electoral outcomes in their respective political systems and, arguably, on social and political policy and communal identity.

On Elections in Israel

by Baruch Kimmerling
published in MER201

On June 5, 1996, Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) became the ninth prime minister of Israel. Soon after his election he successfully replaced the ruling Labor-led coalition with a Likud-led coalition of secular and religious right-wing parties led by his ruling Likud party. This was the third electoral upset in Israel since 1977 when an alignment of parties headed by Herut’s leader Menachem Begin was able, for the first time, to oust the ruling Labor Party. [1] The second upset came in 1992 when a coalition of parties led by Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor Party was able to regain control of the Knesset.

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Skirting Democracy

Lebanon's 1996 Elections and Beyond

by Paul Salem
published in MER203

The practice of selecting political representatives by voting is not new to Lebanon. The parliamentary framework of modern electoral life in Lebanon was established in the 1926 constitution. Elections were held regularly during the French Mandate period, except for interruptions during World War II. Throughout the Mandate period, two thirds of the parliament was elected on the basis of universal male suffrage (women first voted in the 1950s); the remaining one third was appointed by the French authorities. The practice of appointment ended at independence in 1943.

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