Little Democratic Reform Expected from Arab Elections



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.
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs