Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Self-Immolations Spread Across the Region
January 18th, 2011 by Kyle
Reports continue to emerge of copy-cat self-immolations, or suicide by fire, across North Africa in Egypt
. These come following the self-immolation
of Mohammad Bouazizi
which sparked the protests in Tunisia that led to the overthrow of Tunisian President Ben Ali
. Dr. Michael Biggs
and John L Esposito state that self-immolations are rare in the Middle East both historically and in modern times; emphasizing these events signal a drastic new trend in the region. Blake Hounshell,
writing at FP Passport, states
that, “There is something horrifying and, in a way, moving about these suicide attempts. It’s a shocking, desperate tactic that instantly attracts attention, revulsion, but also sympathy.”
New Poll Shows “U-Turn” in U.S. Favorability
May 29th, 2010 by Josh
After nearly a year of slow but visible gains in U.S. approval throughout the Arab world, the latest iteration of Gallup polling shows significant declines
in four of the six states surveyed — perhaps reflecting what some
have recently identified as a rather acute disappointment with what they see as a gap between Obama administration rhetoric and action. Egypt experienced the steepest fall from a two-year high of 37 percent approval last fall to 19 percent today. Algeria was next, dipping 13 percent from 43 to 30. Declines were relatively more mild in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories (3 and 4 percent respectively), both within Gallop’s margin of error.
Aside from surface-level favorability ratings, the poll’s so-called “internals” are fascinating as well. When asked what would improve their view of the United States, 55 percent of Egyptians cited “supporting the right of Muslims to elect their own government” as a “very significant” issue. Other priority responses in this category include: “pulling out of Iraq” (64 percent); “removing military bases from Saudi Arabia” (60 percent); “more direct humanitarian aid” (57 percent); and “greater technology transfer and exchange of business expertise” (57 percent).
Posted in Algeria, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Military, Palestine, Public Opinion, Technology, US foreign policy | Comment »
Mauritania: Council Rejects Anti-terrorism Law
March 8th, 2010 by Josh
Following an appeal by 32 opposition members of parliament, a constitutional court declared that ten articles of Mauritania’s new terrorism law — instituted to combat Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — are illegal under Mauritanian law. The unconstitutional provisions allow for, among other things, “preventive detention of terrorist suspects for 15 days and recording of telephone conversations and their e-mails and those of persons connected with them.” Although Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf defended the government’s good intentions when formulating the terrorism act, he deferred
to the court and said that “we respect and abide by the decision.”
Mauritania: Journalist Remains in Jail for Progressive Reporting
February 2nd, 2010 by Maria
Today’s Wall Street Journal featured a profile
by Khalid Lum
of Hanevy Ould Dahah
, a journalist in Mauritania who was arrested last June days after his website published photos and video showing agent’s of Mauritanian President General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz corrupting the presidential election. The government officially charged the journalist and founder of the progressive Taqadoumy.com
site with posting material that was “contrary to Islam and decent behavior.” Though Dahah’s sentence was completed in December, officials would not release him. On Jan. 14, the Supreme Court ruled his trial was illegal; Dahah has been kept in prison where he’ll likely be re-charged with the same crime.
Dahah is half-Arab and half-African, and was raised to become a cleric having memorized the Quran by the time he was nine years old. Lum writes that when he first met Dahah last year, Dahah explained that “the corrosive impact of his country’s dictatorship and religious extremism…stunted society. Instead of a radical cleric, he became a reformer committed to secular democracy.” After a 20-year dictatorship was dismantled in 2007, Lum writes that Dahah viewed it as an opportunity “ripe for new democratic experiments” by launching Taqadoumy.com (Arabic for “progressive”) in Arabic, French and English. Lum calls the investigative journalism on the site “unparalleled in the Arab world.” Lum also reports that the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, has launched a case for Dahah, who they feel is a victim of “a relentless campaign of persecution.” The U.S. State Department provided Dahah a visa to the U.S. last year to study English, but has not yet commented on his arrest. Lum argues that “if the U.S. is sincere in its support for democratic reform, the administration will publicly demand the immediate release of Hanevy Ould Dahah. He — and dissidents across the Middle East — are waiting.”
Constitutional Reform: Process and Momentum in the Arab World
January 7th, 2010 by Josh
A revealing report by the The Arab Reform Initiative highlights the previous two decades of constitutional reform in the Arab world, and examines both the underlying catalyst for “democratic shifts” and the future direction of these reforms within five countries: Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt, Algeria, and Mauritania.
Though the report, written by Amina El Messaoudi, recognizes the unique internal circumstance of each country’s process toward reformation, it uncovers several thematic similarities across the Arab community. More specifically, it points to constitutional reforms in five general areas: 1) State support of human rights law, 2) Gender equality and women’s representation, 3) Reinforcement of constitutional law, 4) Multi-party systems, and 5) Financial regulation.
However, the impetus for democratic progress often came from different sources. Messaoudi writes that the ruling power initiated reforms in places like Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia, while opposition parties jump-started the process in Morocco. On a functional level, civil society and media helped to spur reformation in Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and Mauritania, “whereas in [Algeria and Bahrain] national treaties served as the entry point for amendments.”
Parliamentary restructuring in favor of bicameral legislatures played a key role by slowly shifting power away from the executive, Messaoudi reports, however three roadblocks prevented widespread progress on that front: 1) The second legislative body is often significantly less democratic with many members appointed directly by the country’s executive, 2) most Arab constitutions impart similar powers and responsibilities to both parliamentary chambers, which “impedes a dynamic relationship from forming between them,” and 3) heads of state retain the sole authority to dissolve the parliament.
While acknowledging that these efforts “have not profoundly altered the political and constitutional arrangements in these countries,” the report attributes the “change in the relationship between the powers, and an increased role for political parties, as well as civil society” to the movement for constitutional reform throughout much of the region, and believes that civil society has been “empowered to undertake an effective role in future constitutional amendments.”
Posted in Algeria, Bahrain, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Freedom, Human Rights, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Political Parties, Reform, Tunisia | 1 Comment »
Strengthening Ties with Mauritania
September 25th, 2009 by Zack
NATO has decided to resume full cooperation with Mauritania after ties were suspended following a coup by now-President Mohamed Ould Abdul Aziz, while the IMF and European Union are strongly considering following suit. Al Arabiyya
is reporting that NATO cited the recent presidential elections for re-engaging the Islamic state, but opponents complain that the August election was fraudulent. Fatimetou Mint Ahmed Jiddou
released a statement saying violence against women is increasing in the country and that her organization, the Association to Fight Against Dependence (ALCD-RIHAB), has dealt with over 700 cases of domestic violence from 2007-2009.
Mauritania Appoints First Female Foreign Minister
August 14th, 2009 by Blake
Mauritania’s newly elected President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz announced the formation of his government, which will includeNaha Mint Hamdi Ould Mouknass as Foreign Minister as well as five other female appointees. Mouknass, who will be the country’s first female Foreign Minister, leads a the Union for Democracy and Progress, a pro-Aziz party founded by her father, a former Foreign Minister, reports
Mauritania After the Elections: Predicting U.S. Policy
August 5th, 2009 by Blake
In the year since a military coup usurped Mauritania’s first democratically elected government, the Mauritanian opposition has maintained its momentum in large part due to a perception of solidarity from the U.S.
, writes Kal at the Moor Next Door Blog. This perception was fed by American endorsement of a “return to constitutional order” after the coup, as well as the rejection of coup leader and interim government president General Ould Abdel Aziz
Since Aziz won the presidential election on July 18, Mauritanians are closely watching how American policy toward Mauritania will take shape. Mauritania was internationally isolated after the 2008 coup, which led Aziz to cut diplomatic ties with Israel in exchange for support from Libya and Iran, Kal argues. This is thus a time of great potential in the U.S.-Mauritanian relationship, but given Aziz’s past record, it is uncertain how the U.S. will approach him.
UNDP’s Call for Rule of Law in Arab Human Development Report
July 21st, 2009 by Blake
The UNDP released its new Arab Human Development Report today, which includes insights from Arab intellectuals, reform practitioners and youth. This year’s report, entitled Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries, notes that “fault lines” in the region have deepened since the release of the first such report in 2002, and that a lack of human security has become a primary factor inhibiting human development.
One relevant chapter of the report focused particularly on the role of Arab states in undermining the human security of their citizens. The report stresses the importance of the rule of law, noting that “The state which departs from these rules becomes a source of risk to life and freedom. Instead of guaranteeing human security, the state itself turns into a major threat to it.”
Key points regarding the role of Arab states in inhibiting human security and development:
Extensive legal restrictions impede the formation and operation of political parties or legal civil society groups across the Arab world.
As of 2008, a state of emergency law precludes rights and basic freedoms in six countries of the region – Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza. Leaders’ absolute authority means that security sectors operate with impunity and without accountability to citizens.
Accused of Fraud: Aziz Wins Mauritanian Election
July 20th, 2009 by Blake
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who led the coup against Mauritania’s first democratically elected leader last August, has won the country’s presidential election, the government confirmed yesterday. Aziz swept 52.4 percent of the vote in the first round. The opposition–some of whom expressed fears about vote rigging before the election–cried foul. His rivals released a statement calling on observers to not validate the results, due to tampering of electoral lists and the use of fake ballot papers and identity cards.
Mauritania’s Long Road to Democracy
July 14th, 2009 by Blake
Last week, the National Democratic Institute released an informative Bulletin providing comprehensive coverage of Mauritania’s upcoming elections and the political dynamics behind the country’s turbulent road to democracy. An upheaval of Mauritania’s first elected government last August led to the formation of a national unity government in June, which will hold elections this Saturday and ensure transparency
. The Bulletin reports that polling in Mauritania shows the top four candidates pitted against each other in a tight race.
The power sharing agreement and elections have been heralded as a step toward democratic reform in a country where elections are a new fixture in the political establishment. In fact the African Union lifted sanctions
on Mauritania this month to support “restoring democratic rule.”
Continuing its biographical coverage of Mauritania’s presidential candidates, Kal at the Moor Next Door today focuses on Ould Abdel Aziz,
who embodies an unique political persona amongst his rivals. His platform is based on populism and anti-Zionist ideology underpinned by patronage. Attempting to undermine Islamists, he has overtly courted Iran and Libya and lead efforts to dismantle relations with Israel. Kal sees Aziz’s platform as suggesting that the elections could have implications for Mauritania in its relations with the United States.
Mauritania Toward Democracy or Status Quo?
July 13th, 2009 by Blake
Five days before Mauritanians head to the ballot box in the first election since a coup overthrew the country’s first elected government, Alex Thurston
questions whether the power of incumbent
leader General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz
will ensure his victory or if Mauritania’s desperate need for international legitimacy (in the wake of last year’s coup and a history of rife corruption) will reinforce the need for clean elections.
None of the candidates are newcomers to Mauritanian politics, but the political landscape is turbulent; politicians swap allegiances often. A power-sharing deal reached in June paved the way for Saturday’s long-postponed election. Running from within the elite establishment is Abdel Aziz
and Colonel Ely Vall
, widely known for corruption, and who is supported by Qatar and Libya. Thurston asks if their contest could split the elite vote and send either of the leading oppositionists, Ahmed Ould Daddah
or Messaoud Boulkheir
, to power. The Telegraph
perceives a potential but uncertain swing vote coming from the country’s slave population, who relate to Boulkheir’s slave ancestry. A run-off is scheduled for August 1
, if the elections do not yield a 50% winner.
Boulkheir Launches Campaign for Change
July 8th, 2009 by Blake
The Moor Next Door blog has a comprehensive account of internal dynamics behind Mauritania’s upcoming elections. Focusing on presidential candidate Messoud Boulkheir, the article follows his slave origins and Obamaesque rise to the Mauritanian political landscape. His supporters–elites, white Moors, and Haratines (Arabophone black Mauritanians descended from slaves)–admire his emphasis on social justice and commitment to all Mauritanians. Despite being an election “kingmaker” in 2007, Boulkhier now runs a “transformative” campaign calling for change and democracy.
Although popular, Boulkheir is not expected to win: “[t]he political playing field in Mauritania is not level. While social and political mobility is certainly possible (and Boulkheir is not the first fellow with a profile like this), it is limited tremendously by disparities in wealth, tribal politics and the power of the military… it remains too true in Mauritania that who controls the garrisons controls the capital.”
Coup, Democracy, Coup, Elections…What’s Next for Mauritania?
July 6th, 2009 by Blake
A coup in 2005 led to Mauritania’s first elections in 2007, yet the political scene was marred by corruption leading to a coup last August, which usurped the country’s first democratically elected president, Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheikh Abdallahi.
Mauritania will once again hold elections on July 18. The poll was initially scheduled for June 6, yet a dispute between the military junta and political parties delayed the establishment of an interim government that will organize and administer the election.
Failed State Index Measures Progress for Iraq; Predicts Failure in Yemen, Pakistan
July 2nd, 2009 by Blake
has released its 2009 annual Failed States Index, which is a timely analysis of how a “virulent economic crisis, countless natural disasters, and government collapse” have affected states across the world, writes FP
. The global economic crisis, predicts FP
, may have provided a combustible environment for state failure in many countries, which draws policy implications for the UN, World Bank and U.S. about who–and how–to help.
Middle Eastern states fared both well, moving down the index (such as Iraq and Egypt), and poorly (such as Yemen and Iran). Here we compare statistics from 2007, 2008 and the 2009 report: Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Mauritania, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Yemen | Comment »
Electoral Showdown in Mauritania
June 11th, 2009 by Blake
Mauritania’s strongest opposition movement, the Union of Democratic Forces (RFD) has announced the candidacy of its leader, Ahmad Ould Daddah, for president in the country’s July 18 elections. Mauritania’s first democratically elected government was overtaken by a coup last year. The Daily Star reports that Ould Daddah and the coup’s leader General Mohammad Ould Abdel-Aziz are favorites to win the election. Ely Ould Mohammad Vall, the country’s leader between 2005 and 2007 may also join the race.
Mauritania Delays Elections to Strengthen Democracy
June 5th, 2009 by Blake
Elections scheduled for tomorrow in Mauritania have been postponed in order to form a transitional government and encourage broader participation. The Daily Starreports that this agreement is the first step for Mauritania’s recognition by the international community after General Mohammad Ould Abdel-Aziz overturned the first democratically elected government in August 2008. Mauritania has been pressured by international actors to restore constitutional rule under fair elections, which will be scheduled under the interim government.
Elections in Mauritania
May 29th, 2009 by Jed
While Mauritania will hold elections on June 6, no major opposition figures will participate and the election of General Muhammad Ould Abdel-Aziz
, who led the August 2008 coup, is nearly certain. In The Daily Star
, Christopher Boucek outlines how Mauritanian politics are dominated by military personalities despite calls from opposition parties that military officers involved in coups not be permited to stand for office. Such calls may have led to Abdel-aziz’s resignation from the High State Council and the April announcement that he would run as a civilian candidate. Boucek asserts, however, that western security concerns will continue to combine with this military political influence to put “governance issues ahead of transnational security concerns”.
May Issue of Arab Reform Bulletin Now Available
May 7th, 2009 by Cecile
Be sure to check out the latest edition of the Carnegie Endowment’s Arab Reform Bulletin. This issue includes discussion of a possible re-birth for Fatah, the odds of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood running in next year’s parliamentary elections, the June presidential election in Mauritania, judicial reform in Saudi Arabia, and improving education in the UAE.
Potomac Institute & SAIS Release Report on North African Diplomacy
April 8th, 2009 by Eoghan
On POMED’s Morocco country page
, James Liddell
discusses a new report by the Potomac Institute and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on why and how the U.S. should promote regional cooperation in the Maghreb region of North Africa.
U.S. Government-Related Resources
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