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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
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 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 Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
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 Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
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 Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
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.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs