Sunday, February 27, 2005

Arab Election Watch

Following on the heels of Saudi Arabia's first election since 1963, the Kingdom's Prince Faisal has publicly stated that the next round of balloting there will be open to both genders:
Even the commissioner of elections has said that he is going to propose that they vote. So I am assuming that they will vote in the next election, and that is going to be good for the election, because I think women are more sensible voters than men.
As they say, read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, across the Red Sea, Egypt's longtime strongman is pushing an amendment through his rubberstamp parliament to "allow for direct, multiparty elections":
President Hosni Mubarak asked Egypt's Parliament on Saturday to amend the Constitution to allow for direct, multiparty presidential elections this year for the first time in the nation's history.

On the face of it, the unexpected proposal from Mr. Mubarak, a former Air Force general who has ruled Egypt unchallenged since 1981, represents a sea change in a country with a 50-year history of one-party governments.

"The president will be elected through direct, secret balloting, opening the opportunity for political parties to run in the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate for the people to choose from with their own will," Mr. Mubarak said, speaking live on television before an audience at the University of Menoufiya in the Egyptian delta.
It's worth remembering that at this stage, these movements toward democracy are as tentative and reversible as they were unexpected and fortuitous. That said, it's hard not to be optimistic about what increasingly appears to be political support for democracy as pan-Arab as, well, pan-Arabism was forty years ago. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, to say the least.


At 8:13 PM, Blogger Seb said...

Regarding Saudi Arabia: considering that a woman's testimony is worth half as much as a man's will their vote also count half as much? And does it matter that they get to vote when there's realy only one option? People in Mexico voted for almost a hundred years and still only one party stayed in power. Secret ballots and everything. Its been the experience of my parents (in Argentina) that secret ballots are not so secret if the government doesn't want them to be. Granted, there is hope for optimism in that they're willing to at least give democracy lip-service, but I doubt its anything more than cynicism and self-preservation. -Seb

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Seb said...

Also a little interesting thing:
Sen. Clinton and Sen. Hermann Munster are sponsoring a bill to require paper trails on all electronic voting. It brings up interesting problem, how to prevent tampering from elections. If these so called Arab democracies choose to upgrade to electronic voting, how will we prevent them from tampering? Even worse, if these elections are truly secret, how will we know they weren't tampered with anyway?


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