Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: North Africa
Democracy Promotion: Workshops Held Across the Middle East
January 26th, 2010 by Maria
The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy
(CSID) is organizing a “Training of Trainers” workshop for Jordan (end of January) and Bahrain (early February) for democracy education among local youth, women, lawyers, teachers and religious leaders. The organization is providing information and leading exercises on how Islam can be compatible with democratic principles and human rights in the Arab world.
CSID held similar workshops in Morocco and Tunisia last November, where Moroccan and Tunisian human rights activists presented a training manual: “Islam and Democracy - Toward Effective Citizenship.” The manual has been used to train more than 4,500 people from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain. CSID feels education on democracy “remains one of the best ways to build a culture of democracy, and human rights and to strengthen the pillars of future democratic states in the Arab world.”
Morocco: Reforming Through Decentralization?
January 5th, 2010 by Josh
On January 4, King Mohammed IV of Morocco announced his intention to establish an “Advisory Committee” which will be tasked with drafting legislation to “give regional authorities more power to determine their own paths to development based on local conditions.” Magharebia reports that the committee, led by Morocco’s Ambassador to Spain, Omar Azzamine, will “find ways to boost the power of regions so they can effectively contribute to Morocco’s socio-economic and cultural development.” Supplementing this announcement is an Al-Arabiya report on a partial reshuffling of the Moroccan cabinet. In a statement to the media, the royal council linked the new appointments — the most significant of which are in the Ministries of Justice and Interior — to the aforementioned Advisory Committee initiative, claiming that the cabinet shake-up would “give greater momentum to major development projects and structural institutional reforms.”
New Arab Reform Bulletin
November 12th, 2009 by Jason
In this issue, Sam Parker
explains why the passing of the Iraq election law
provides a “fair” outcome for the Kurds while also offering a “small victory” to the anti-Kurd forces. The election law will allow Kurds on the 2009 voting rolls to vote normally, despite fears by anti-Kurd politicians that Kurds are moving to Kirkuk en masse to alter political outcomes. However, the law also stipulates a mechanism to investigate fraud, should the voting outcome appear suspicious. Parker concludes that the “national elections law debate is emblematic of the current state of Iraqi politics: slow, messy, and factionalized, but ultimately democratic and successful in achieving the minimum necessary to carry Iraq forward without falling apart.”
Posted in Algeria, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Hamas, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Israel, Journalism, Legislation, Libya, Military, Morocco, Muslim Brotherhood, North Africa, Palestine, Political Islam, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Publications, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism | Comment »
iKnow Politics Expands to the Arab World
November 3rd, 2009 by Zack
The National Democratic Institute has announced that iKnow Politics, an online network dedicated to the advancement of women in politics, has released an Arabic website opening access to their services to potentially millions of more users. The International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics, www.iknowpolitics.org, began in 2007 and now operates in English, French and Spanish, in addition to Arabic. The announcement came as part of a two-day conference attended by about 150 women leaders, political candidates, activists and representatives of women’s organizations, primarily from the Middle East and North Africa, who discussed the impact of media and information technology on the number and effectiveness of women in politics.
POMED Notes - “A Regional Overview of the Middle East”
October 29th, 2009 by Zack
The House Foreign Affairs Committee received testimony from Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. The committee questioned Feltman about U.S. policy and diplomatic efforts regarding Iran, Israel and Palestine, Lebanese government develop, Syrian relations, and other issues confronting American interests in the Middle East.
For POMED’s full notes of the event, please click here
Posted in Afghanistan, DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, EU, Egypt, Elections, Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Hamas, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Israel, Lebanon, Legislation, Mideast Peace Plan, Multilateralism, North Africa, Political Islam, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Terrorism, US foreign policy, United Nations, sanctions | Comment »
Tunisia Prepares for Sham Elections
October 23rd, 2009 by Jason
Tunisia will hold presidential and legislative elections on October 25th. The Daily Star
has reprinted a good overview of the upcoming election, originally in the Arab Reform Bulletin
, by Hamadi Redissi
that explains how Tunisia’s electoral system “allows for an appearance of pluralism in the Chamber of Deputies without threatening the ruling party’s hegemony.”
Writing for The Independent
, Adrian Hamilton
explains how Tunisia and North Africa’s “ageing autocrats use elections for the sole purpose of keeping themselves in power and their family in riches.” While not as violent as other authoritarian countries, “Tunisian political control is more discrete and more legalistic. But a closed political system it is.” Therefore, Michael Allen summarizes Tunisian politics as “gerontocracy vs. democracy.”
According to The Guardian, “virtually all observers agree that the elections, for parliament as well as the presidency, can be no more than a hollow exercise
.” While some parties have been allowed to run against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
, opposition candidate NejibChebbi dropped out of the race because of “the absence of minimal conditions of freedom, of honest and transparency.” The government has cracked down on the press as the election draws closer, turning back a Le Mondecorrespondent at the airport and slamming recent al-Jazeera interviews of leading Tunisian dissidents.
Freedom House has also released a statement decrying “the Tunisian government’s harassment of opposition figures and journalists during the lead-up to presidential and legislative elections.”
Finally, Amel Boubekeur of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explains how Ben Ali exploits the threat of Islamism
to maintain his grip on power.
UPDATE: Babylon and Beyond has also chimed in, explaining how Ben Ali “introduced constitutional amendments to allow himself to run for another term, limit the number of opposition candidates and guarantee his Constitutional Democratic Rally as an overwhelming majority in parliament.”
The Complete Picture in Morocco
September 3rd, 2009 by Jason
After an interview with Morocco’s ambassador
to the U.S, Aziz Mekouar
, journalist Anna Gawel
lauds Morocco in The Washington Diplomat as a “moderate Muslim nation embracing modernity without shrugging off its valued traditions. It promotes women’s equality, human rights, religious tolerance and social liberalization - all while remaining true to its Islamic heritage.” Or, in the words of Ambassador Mekouar, King Mohammad VI has “delivered” on his promise for democratization, human rights and gender equality.
But, as Gawel herself notes, “not all is paradise in the Kingdom of Morocco.” She quotes Maat Monjib and James Liddell of the Brookings Institution who observe, “Morocco resembles an absolute monarchy much more than the democracy to which it rhetorically aspires.”
In the past, our blog has chronicled several articles about Morocco’s anti-democratic tendencies, such as the recent jailing of Western Sahara activist Naâma Asfari, the banning of editions of weekly publications TelQuel
and a New York Times
piece decrying Morocco’s slow pace of reform
by Steven Erlanger
and Souad Mekhennet
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.
Democracy Promotion in North Africa
April 7th, 2009 by Eoghan
Dana Moss, the Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute, points out
in the Christian Science Monitor that while the U.S. provides Morocco $110 million annually to address “drivers of youth disaffection,” Washington lacks a policy for promoting human rights and political reform in Tunisia and Algeria. “In conjunction with European partners, a far more detailed and extensive program of scholarships, technical expertise assistance, civic education, English language programs, and other development programs should be offered to Tunisia and Algeria.”
Morocco and the Mauritanian Coup
August 14th, 2008 by Adam
Kal at The Moor Next Door has an interesting analysis of Morocco’s position towards Mauritania’s coup, which it has taken a favorable attitude towards. Morocco’s attempts to cultivate a positive relationship with the junta are an attempt, “…to cultivate a favorable disposition in the regime presently in place so that when the rest of the world does reconcile with the junta, which would ideally take place by way of Morocco, the Mauritanians will have to pay the Kingdom back in some manner or the other.”
Mauritanian Coup Update
August 12th, 2008 by Adam
The Arabist writes that the coup in Mauritania is especially damaging to the country’s democratic hopes
as it was conducted by the same people involved in the 2005 coup as well as supporters of former President Ould Taya. He also says it will be impossible to justify this coup as protecting democracy as so much “symbolic capital” was spent on legitimizing the previous coup.
On a related note, Kal at The Moor Next Door reports that Morocco’s intelligence chief has met with general Gen. Abdel Aziz
and offered Morocco’s support while suggesting that he should release members of the previous government as a sign of good will. Responding to external pressure, the coup leaders have released the Prime Minister
and several other officials, but the President remains under house arrest.
Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb
July 2nd, 2008 by Adam
GrandMasta Splash at Arabic Media Shack analyzes the recent New York Times
article examining Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
. Splash says the Times article exaggerates the Al-Qaeda links as their tactics, such as killing foreigners, were part of the GIA’s repertoire during its conflict with the Algerian government in the 1990s. Furthermore, according to Splash, the group’s linking with Al-Qaeda is a sign of weakness as they were nearly crushed by the Algerian government and had to align with Bin Laden as a last ditch effort to save their organization from complete marginalization.
POMED Notes: Rethinking Democracy Promotion in Middle East at USIP
January 17th, 2008 by Nicolas
Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Institute of Peace hosted an event entitled “Rethinking Democracy Promotion in the Middle East,” featuring Cairo-based writer and scholar Hugh Roberts, formerly of International Crisis Group, giving an analysis and critique of Western efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East, with suggestions for revamping the approach. Roberts largely criticized the current approach to promoting democracy as ineffective, counterproductive intereference in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern states.
Responses to Roberts were given by Stephen King of Georgetown and Matthew Frumin of NDI, moderated by USIP’s Dina Shehata, followed by a lively Q & A session.
US Efforts to Spread Democracy in Tunisia Are Met with Resistance
September 12th, 2007 by Amanda
of the Christian Science Monitor
reports that US-funded democracy building projects in Tunisia, like a university newspaper produced by Tunisians and a program of roundtable discussions, are “complicated by popular anger over US policy” and consequently “some governments in the region are worried US efforts to stoke democratic reforms will destabilize their regimes.”
Secularism in North Africa
July 3rd, 2007 by Audrey
Following on Marina Ottaway’seditorial
yesterday, the Daily Star
today published an op-ed from Anouar Bouhkars
examining secularism in North Africa, blaming secular political parties for their “organizational inefficacy and inability or unwillingness to lead meaningful tangible reforms” for their lack of success.
POMED Event - “Bringing the World Home” Conferences 2007
May 30th, 2007 by Administrator
(left) Prince Hassan bin Talal speaks with former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the opening of the Amman conference. (right) Participants at the Jordan conference develop policy recommendations in small group discussions.
In spring 2007, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) joined with Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) and four regional partners to convene conferences in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, bringing together 152 young Americans and Middle Easterners to discuss America’s impact on political reform in the region. In these conferences, participants discussed the U.S. – Middle East relationship, consequences of American policies in the Middle East, and how the U.S. could better support democratization in the region. Participants also jointly developed, debated and ratified policy recommendations for the U.S. government, regional governments, the media, and civil society organizations.
The conferences provided an open forum for young Americans and Middle Easterners to directly engage each other about U.S. democracy strategy and about Middle Easterners’ hopes and ambitions for political reform in their countries. The conferences included thematic panel discussions featuring regional experts, small group discussions to formulate policy recommendations, and a general session to debate and vote on the recommendations. Conference workshops trained participants on how to hold follow-up events on their own campuses and in their own communities to discuss the policy recommendations and what they had learned.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization