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Project on Middle East Democracy
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Clinton and Kerry Call for Reform and Concrete Steps Towards Transition
February 7th, 2011 by Naureen
On Sunday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to address his nation and clarify what the timetable and process for transition will be.  ”The most important thing now,” Kerry said, “is to guarantee the process is in place where there are free and fair elections.”  Speaking on NPR on Sunday, U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she had spoken to Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman and pressed him to issue timelines and ensure that the dialogue process is transparent and meaningful and leads to concrete steps towards transition.  Clinton also called on other Arab leaders to implement economic and political reform.  Speaking to Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik on Saturday, Clinton also emphasized the need to ensure that the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people are met and that a broad cross-section of civil society and political actors are involved in the transition process.
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Egypt, Elections​, Protests​, Reform | Comment »
House Democrats Call For Action on Egypt
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
Democratic House Reps. Jim Moran - VA, John Conyers - MI, Raul Grijalva - AZ, Michael Honda - CA, Jim McDermott - WA, and Keith Ellison - MI, sent House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) a letter calling for the House to take up an emergency resolution to express support for the Egyptian people and their “struggle for freedom and democracy as soon as possible upon returning to session.”  The letter stressed the importance of sending a “strong message” to the Egyptian government and military to respect the people’s right to assemble, protect unarmed citizens, and immediately halt any use of aggression against demonstrators.  The House members also said that the Egyptian people had the right to determine the future of their government and that Congress should help, “amplify President Obama’s message calling on President Mubarak to respond to the urgent and legitimate demands of the Egyptian people.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Egypt, Protests​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Is Egypt’s “Democratic Window” Closed?
February 7th, 2011 by Naureen
Joshua Stacher, writing in Foreign Affairsargues that “Egypt’s democratic window has probably already closed.” He states that “contrary to the dominant media narrative, over the last ten days the Egyptian state has not experienced a regime breakdown.” In fact, Stacher argues that the Mubarak regime, which has the unwavering support of the military, has implemented a sophisticated good-cop, bad-cop strategy with the police functioning as the regime’s repressive army and the army keeping order in the streets: “With the protesters caught between regime-engineered violence and regime-manufactured safety, the cabinet generals remained firmly in control of the situation.” They have also launched a strategic campaign to wear down the non-protesting population, which had generally supportive of the anti-regime demonstrators. Stacher goes on to say that while calls for President Hosni Mubarak to resign have intensified, the real question is if the those guiding the transition will choose to direct it towards democratic ends; if that person is Vice President Omar Suleiman​, he says, “the prospects for democracy are grim.”
Michael Allen, writing at Democracy Digest, also questions the future of democracy in Egypt given the military’s ties to Mubarak, Suleiman’s dismissal of the protests as “promoting a foreign agenda” rather than reflective political aspirations and socio-economic grievances, the lack of cohesion among opposition groups and growing rifts within the groups.
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Egypt, Protests​, Reform | Comment »
Morocco: Banned Islamist Group Calls for Reform, Protests Planned on Facebook
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
Justice and Charity, a banned Moroccan sufi-inspired Islamist group, has called for “autocracy” to be “swept away” and that the government should undertake “deep democratic reform.”  The group is believed to be the country’s biggest opposition force and draws its primary support from university students and could have up to as many as 200,000 members throughout the country, mostly in poor districts.  Reuters reports that a group on Facebook has received hundreds of supporters for a protest planned for February 20th.  Moroccan Telecommunications Minister Khaled al-Nasiri apparently welcomed the report stating that protests were a normal feature of “democratic life” in Morocco and that the government has, “for years been open to freedom of opinion and expression.”  Standard and Poor’s has rated Morocco as the least likely of the North African states to be affected by unrest.
Posted in Islamist movements​, Morocco​, Protests​, Reform | Comment »
Sudan: Al-Bashir Accepts Referendum Results, Clinton Expresses U.S. Support
February 7th, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced his acceptance of the referendum results and his commitment to maintaining good relations between the North and the South. Southern Leader Salva Kiir welcomed al-Bashir’s comments. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated northern and southern leaders for “facilitating a peaceful and orderly vote” and commended the Government of Sudan for accepting the outcome. She expressed U.S. support during the upcoming transition process and called on the Government of South Sudan to “launch a process of inclusive governance and take steps to improve good governance and service delivery” and to form strong security and economic relations with the North. Clinton also announced that the U.S. is initiating the process of withdrawing Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.
 Update: President Barack Obama has stated that the U.S. will officially recognize South Sudan in July.
Posted in Elections​, Sudan | Comment »
Iraq: Weekend Protests Over Lack of Government Services, PM Maliki Pledges No Third Term
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
About 250 people gathered in Baghdad on Sunday to protest the lack of services in impoverished neighborhoods.  Other protests and smaller demonstrations took place in Basra, Ramadi, and Mosul.  Protesters complained about power and water shortages, food rations, and other basic services along with lack of employment opportunities. Iraqi police injured four people in a protest in Diwaniya last Thursday after firing into the air to disperse protesters. On Saturday, a demonstration in Najaf in support of the Egyptians was broken up.  This comes as Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki announced he would not seek a third term as PM and pledged to add an amendment to the constitution introducing term limits (two term maximum).
Posted in Iraq, Protests | Comment »
Der Spiegel Reports Possible Exit Plan for Mubarak
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
German paper Der Spiegel is reporting that the U.S. government and Egyptian officials are working on a plan for Hosni Mubarak to exit Egypt on a “prolonged health check” that would place him in a luxury clinic near Baden-Baden, Germany. The report builds upon earlier claims from a piece in The New York Times.  Such plans are, “far more concrete than had been assumed.” Politicians from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition have reacted positively to such a prospect saying that a “prolonged stay” by Mubarak would be welcome if it helped stabilize Egypt.
Posted in Egypt, US foreign policy | Comment »
Algeria: Scheduled Protest on Saturday Set Despite Ban
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
Mustapha Bouchachi​, president of the Algerian Human Rights Defense League, has stated that a scheduled protest for Saturday, February 12th in the capital will go ahead as scheduled.  Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had previously announced that the government would be lifting its state of emergency law that bans protests, however a ban on protests in the capital, Algiers, would remain in place.  Zohra Drif Bitat, president of the upper house in the Algerian parliament, also publicly rebuked Bouteflika’s government for failing to deliver on economic promises and reform but also praised the promised lifting of the emergency law. The weekend saw at least two self-immolation suicide attempts inspired by events in Tunisia.
Posted in Algeria, Protests | Comment »
Al Jazeera Reporter in Cairo Describes Detention By Military Police
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
Posted in Egypt, Human Rights, Journalism​, Protests | Comment »
Building Lasting Democracy in Egypt
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
Larry Diamond​, in an op-ed piece for The Washington Postoutlines the steps needed for Egypt to transform into a stable and lasting democracy.  Using examples from other nations who have made the transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, Diamond states that unity of the opposition is paramount to prevent autocrats from re-consolidating power as a splintered opposition allows corrupt rulers to essentially steal elections.  He says that Egypt is lucky in that Mohammed ElBaradei seems to be emerging as a unifying figure for disparate opposition groups.  Diamond also urges cautions in dealing with remnants of the old regime that are still in place.  A new leader for Egypt must be “untainted by the old order” but will not be able to completely wipe away the remaining “pillars of the authoritarian order.”  He holds up Brazil and South Africa as model examples of how to deal with such elements.  Also necessary, he argues, are constitutional reforms that will allow free and fair elections to take place, while allowing the country to deal with fully re-writing the constitution after such elections. He ends by calling for a transitional government to be inclusive, even if that means including “dubious players” of the old regime: “Transitions are full of opportunists, charlatans and erstwhile autocrats who enter the new political field with no commitment to democracy. Every democratic transition that has endured […] has tread this path.”
Posted in Egypt, Elections​, Reform | Comment »
Tunisia: Ben Ali’s Party Banned As Interim PM Receives Emergency Powers
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
The new Tunisian Interior Minister, Farhat Rahjiordered ousted President Zine Ben Ali’s former party, the Constitutional Democratic Assembly (RCD), to close its offices and cease all activities.  Rahji has been viewed as a “zealous advocate” of forcing regime loyalists from power.  The order is viewed as a first step to fully dissolving the party which is viewed as an impediment to reform.  Meanwhile, legislation was introduced into the lower house of parliament to give interim President Foued Mebazaa emergency powers allowing him to rule by decree, thereby sidestepping the RCD dominated legislative body.  Rachid Ghannouchi​, leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, has said that the group is being shut out of the interim government.  Ghannouchi called for a more inclusive cabinet and the dismantling of the police state.  He also stated that Tunisia should adopt the parliamentary system of government in order to ensure that power is not concentrated into a singular head of state and government.
Posted in Islamist movements​, Political Parties, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Obama and Nawara Call For Transition, True Recognition of Protest Movement
February 7th, 2011 by Naureen
On Friday, President Barack Obama condemned attacks on journalists and called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to lead an effective transition based on substantive negotiations with the opposition and reform. Wael Nawara​, an Egyptian activist and founder of the opposition party Al-Ghad, also called for a transition period to begin immediately and for opposition groups to sustain the movement with minimal damage to the Egyptian people. Thus far, Nawara states, Vice President Omar Suleiman “is meeting with opposition parties which are loyal to the regime. So, it’s like being not a dialogue. This is kind of a monologue, because he is kind of speaking to himself. He really now needs to recognize that protest — the protest movement, which [represents] many groups.”
Posted in Egypt, Political Parties, Protests​, Reform | Comment »
Egypt: Transition to Democracy May Face Constitutional Obstacles
February 4th, 2011 by Alec
As the U.S.  seeks to encourage Hosni Mubarak’s possible resignation, several commentators have pointed out that the current Egyptian constitution could present some obstacles to an immediate resignation.  Hossam Bahgat and Soha Abdelaty of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, state that under current law, if Mubarak were to resign, the speaker of parliament, Fathi Surur (not the new Vice President Omar Suleiman​), would assume the presidency as an interim president.  They argue that Surer is simply a regime stalwart who has used his legal expertise to enact abusive laws designed to keep the regime in power and that his assumption of the presidency, even in an interim context, would be problematic. Suleiman would be a lesser evil even though they regard him little more than “Mubarak II.” However, this would require a special presidential decree that can only be issued by Mubarak himself.  They point out that he has already done so twice, in 2004 and 2009, when he was hospitalized.
Such a decree would allow Mubarak to officially stay in office as an “honorary president”  while Suleiman would be able to assume powers to lead a provisional authority.  Amr Hamzawy​, an Egyptian political scientist says such a deal would be accepted by pro-democracy protesters as a compromise as long as “safeguards” were put in place to end the state of emergency that has existed since 1981.  Bahgat and Abdelaty agree that the lifting of the emergency law is essential and would require another presidential decree from Mubarak.  Hamzawy argues that the transition needs to begin immediately.
Nathan Brown, writing for Foreign Policyargues for suspending the constitution entirely which would necessitate negotiations between the regime and the opposition outside the existing rules.  Such negotiations would be difficult and confusing and require much more from the opposition that it has offered up.  However Brown says that this option is the only one that offers the possibility of real political change: “It may be the best outcome and it is what the opposition is effectively demanding.”
Posted in Egypt, Human Rights, Reform | Comment »
Egypt: View of Protesters From Above
February 4th, 2011 by Kyle
Posted in Egypt, Protests | Comment »
Leahy Ready to Freeze Aid to Egypt, Graham and Granger Call for Caution
February 4th, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, Chairman of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said that he intends to freeze aid to Egypt until unrest subsides: “The fact of the matter is, there’s not going to be further foreign aid to Egypt until this gets settled.” Speaking to MSNBC on Wednesday, Leahy called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down saying that the aid “pipeline would be turned off” until he does.  A temporary cut-off will occur if the country does not stabilize in the next month, Leahy said;  the current government funding law is set to expire on March 4th. Leahy lauded the role the Egyptian military has played thus far, but warned that if there is any evidence that the military is violating human rights using equipment funded by the U.S., their assistance “would be cut off immediately,” per a U.S. law that Leahy himself drafted. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) cautioned his colleagues on curring aid by asking them to “consider the consequences of such an action. Give the Egyptian people a chance to work this out.” Chairwoman of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX) called for caution when discussing aid to Egypt.
Posted in Congress​, Democracy Promotion​, Egypt, Foreign Aid | Comment »
Egypt: Opposition to Announce a Negotiating Body
February 4th, 2011 by Kyle
Al-Ahram reports that the anti-government opposition has stated that they will announce a 25 member negotiating body on Saturday. Ziad El-Eleimy​, lawyer and youth activist, announced that the committee would include opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei​, Nobel Laureate and scientist Ahmed Zewail, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.​The other specifics about who would make up this group were not given, but it was reported that five of its members will come from the youth movement. El-Eleimy stated that this group would attempt to enter into negotiations once President Hosni Mubarak steps down, or if a credible announcement is made pledging Mubarak’s commitment to step down within a specified, and short, period of time.
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Egypt, Protests | Comment »
Egypt: Banner Hung From Apartment Building in Support of Protests
February 4th, 2011 by Kyle
“Our demands: 1. deposing the president 2. dissolving the two illegitimate houses of parliament 3. lifting the state of emergency immediately 4. forming a caretaker national unity government 5. an elected parliament that amends the constitution to allow fair presidential elections 6. bringing murders of demonstrators to trial 7. immediate judicial proceedings against corrupt officials and those stealing the of the nation.”
Posted in Egypt, Protests | Comment »
Egypt: Video of Protests in Alexandria
February 4th, 2011 by Kyle
Posted in Egypt, Protests | Comment »
Egypt Update: Security Forces Raid Muslim Brotherhood Site Headquarters
February 4th, 2011 by Naureen
On Friday, security forces raided the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official news website ikhwanonline.com, and arrested 12 journalists inside. They also seized some equipment and documents, said Ahmed Subei managing editor of the site. The government has blamed the Brotherhood for the protests which began on January 25th despite the fact that they were not involved in the initial planning of the event.
Posted in Egypt, Freedom​, Journalism​, Protests | Comment »
U.S. in Talks With Egypt’s Government on Mubarak’s Departure
February 4th, 2011 by Naureen
U.S. officials have stated that talks are under way between the Obama administration and top Egyptian officials on the possible immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the formation of a military-backed caretaker government that could prepare the country for free and fair elections later this year.  The officials stressed that the United States isn’t seeking to impose a solution on Egypt but said the administration had made a judgment that Mubarak has to go soon if there is to be a peaceful resolution to the crisis.  White House and State Department officials would not discuss details of the discussions US officials are having with the Egyptians, and an administration official stated that there is no single plan being discussed with the Egyptians. Rather, the administration is pursuing different ideas with Egyptian figures on how to proceed quickly with a process that includes a broad range of voices and leads to free and fair elections.
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Egypt, Protests​, US foreign policy | Comment »
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