News

Little Democratic Reform Expected from Arab Elections

Multimedia

Audio

Political analysts in the Arab world are praising the recently completed Palestinian elections as a positive example of how free and fair democratic elections can be held in the region. But when it comes to elections scheduled to be held this year in Iraq, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the same analysts say those elections will not likely lead to any significant democratic reform.

According to the head of the Asian Studies department at Cairo University, Mohammed el-Sayed Selim, the Palestinian elections will have been what he called the lone bright spot among all the elections scheduled to be held in the Arab world this year.

"The Palestinian elections have created a model in the Arab world that Arabs, Palestinians can hold competitive elections in a fair, peaceful way and reach a fair conclusion," he said. "However, at a higher level of analysis, still many Arab regimes are trying to pursue a piecemeal approach, which is not congruent with the expectations of the Arab masses. Arab masses would like to have fair elections, competitive elections. This is not what we see in other parts of the Arab world, with the exception of Palestinian case."

Mr. Selim, who is also a guest lecturer at Kuwait University, says few believe the elections in Iraq, scheduled for January 30, will do anything to promote political change in the rest of the Arab world.

The head of the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut, Sami Baroudi, says he agrees. Mr. Baroudi says the continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq will cause most Arabs to discount the reliability of the election.

"The Iraqi election, I think people are still in doubt it will take place or not," he said. "However, if it takes place, I think there will be some people who are questioning how honest you can have an election with the presence of the occupation."

The head of the political science department at Cairo University, Hassan Nafae, says the presence of U.S.-led forces raises questions about what the Iraqi election will accomplish.

"The election under occupation is not a real election," he said. "It is an election under emergency circumstances. This will not lead to, I believe, a real democracy in Iraq."

Iraqis are to choose 275 members of a national assembly who are to debate and approve a new constitution. There will also be elections to 18 provincial assemblies and the autonomous Kurdish parliament in the north.

In September, Egyptians will go to the polls to decide whether President Hosni Mubarak, who has held the office since 1981, will get another term in office. According to former Egyptian ambassador and expert on Arab affairs, Abdullah al-Ashaal, the public in Egypt is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo.

"The people on the streets are not satisfied with the performance of the government or the corruption prevailing everywhere. And President Mubarak cannot say that he has achieved many particular things in Egypt."

"Despite growing political restlessness on the streets of Egypt, Mr. Mubarak, who is running unopposed, is expected to easily win another six-year term in office," he said. "Analysts say Egypt will have to amend its constitution before free and fair elections can be held. But there is no strong political voice in Egypt calling for constitutional change.

In Saudi Arabia, the first-ever elections will be held later this year. Voters will choose among candidates in municipal elections. The head of the al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Jordan, Uraib el-Rantawi, says it remains unclear whether the local elections will lead to greater democracy throughout the kingdom.

"In Saudi Arabia it is a small step toward democratization, toward reforms," he said. "But, it is too early now to estimate or to imagine there is serious change in the internal situation in Saudi Arabia, or a serious democratization process in that country."

Mr. el-Rantawi notes that women will not be allowed to vote in the municipal elections. He also says the polling will be centrally controlled by the government. Consequently, Mr. el-Rantawi says the political impact of the elections in Saudi Arabia or on the rest of the region, will, at best, be very limited.

All the political analysts who spoke with VOA agreed that with the exception of the recent Palestinian election little, if any, meaningful democratic change is expected as the result of upcoming elections elsewhere in the Arab world.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs