Daily Egypt and Tunisia links 12/02/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Egypt and Tunisia links 11/08/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Egypt and Tunisia links 11/07/2013

  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Syria terrorism al-qaida politics elections democratization

  • tags: Bardo Egypt Tunisia twitter

    Lively discussions with protesters at #Bardo with focus on #Egypt: Killings that happened there inconceivable in #Tunisia, they agreed.

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia opinion analysis military MB ikhwan ennahda authoritarianism

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia Libya MENA uprisings opinion

    • given the Arab spring’s uneven progress, many say the answer is authoritarian modernisation: an Augusto Pinochet, Lee Kuan Yew or Deng Xiaoping to keep order and make the economy grow. Unlike South-East Asians, the Arabs can boast no philosopher-king who has willingly nurtured democracy as his economy has flourished. Instead, the dictator’s brothers and the first lady’s cousins get all the best businesses. And the despots—always wary of stirring up the masses—have tended to duck the big challenges of reform, such as gradually removing the energy subsidies that in Egypt alone swallow 8% of GDP. Even now the oil-rich monarchies are trying to buy peace; but as an educated and disenfranchised youth sniffs freedom, the old way of doing things looks ever more impossible, unless, as in Syria, the ruler is prepared to shed vast amounts of blood to stay in charge
    • Turkey, for all its faults, is more democratic today than it was when the army lurked in the background.
    • Now it is up to Tunisia, the first of the Arab countries to throw off the yoke of autocracy, to show that Arab Islamists can run countries decently. It might just do that: it is on its way to getting a constitution that could serve as the basis of a decent, inclusive democracy. If the rest of the Arab world moves in that direction, it will take many years to do so.
    • Even now, most people in the old Soviet bloc live under repressive regimes—yet few want to go back
  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Turkey MB ikhwan ennahda AKP

  • tags: Tunisia constitution politics party ennahda Egypt

    • “France knows that Islam and democracy are compatible.” While Hollande did say “Islam” and not “Islamism,” it was nevertheless the closest thing to an endorsement of Tunisia’s Ennahda party to come from any French politician.
    • if the Tunisian Tamarod movement has not seen immediate support from the street, they have received a major political partner: Tunisia’s most important opposition coalition, Nidaa Tounes.

       

        The coalition — which scores alongside Ennahda at the top of opinion polls — issued a press release on July 4 in which it made the same demands as Tamarod, the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and new elections.

    • Mabrouka Mbarek, a left-leaning deputy at the Constituent Assembly from the Congress for the Republic Party, expressed her outrage at Essebsi’s position.

       

        “This is unacceptable and dangerous. For Essebsi to say this shows that he has no clue what democracy is, and is not fit to be in government,”

    • “The Egyptian example is present in the mind of Ennahda right now,” said Mohamed Bennour, the spokesman for the Ettakatol Party in an interview at the party’s annual congress on July 7. He went on to say that the events in Egypt could play a “catalyzing” role in Tunisia. “I think the people will move if Ennahda ever makes big mistakes. I think that Ennahda is conscious now of not making mistakes in the current period.”
    • The biggest bone of contention in Tunisian politics right now is the finalization of the country’s constitution, and in particular two articles — Articles 6 and 141 — which secularists say leave the door open for a higher degree of influence of Islamic law.

       

        Article 6 says that the state is the “protector” of “al moqadiset”  — “the holy things” — which could mean a ban on insulting any religious symbols, mosques or even imams, a much stricter blasphemy law than anything Tunisia currently has. Article 141 says that no amendments can be made to the constitution which are not in accordance with “Islam as the religion of the state,” a vague wording that some — including the Ettakatol Party — think could imply that Sharia should be the basis for future constitutional changes.

       

        “Article 141 refers the origin of the law to the Quran and Sharia, and that is very dangerous because it can be interpreted by certain judges as being the law, Sharia as law,” said Bennour.

       

        However, Bennour and others within the socialist Ettakatol Party felt that Ennahda would cede on these controversial points in light of recent events.

    • While the rest of Tunisia prepares to slow down with the reduced hours of the holy month of Ramadan [due to start on July 9], the Constituent Assembly has announced it will continue to work, with a session in the morning and another after the breaking of fast at night.

       

        Perhaps the dire example of Egypt will push Tunisia’s parliament to put aside differences and advance their country to the next phase of democracy.

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia politics analysis MB ikhwan constitution ennahda

    • Why has democratic constitutionalism worked relatively well in one North African Arab country while it has crashed and burned in another? And what will the answer tell us about the future of democracy in the Arabic-speaking world, from Libya to Syria and beyond?
    • During his decades in exile, Ghannouchi wrote extensively about the compatibility of Islam and democracy, and developed a relatively liberal vision of how Islam and the state should interact.

      Skeptics then claimed that Ghannouchi’s views were a cover for a more radical agenda; and some Tunisian secularists still think so. But the evidence thus far is sharply to the contrary. When Islamists called for inserting a reference to Shariah into the Tunisian constitution — usually the sine qua non for any Islamic political party — Ghannouchi took seriously the opposition from secularists. In a dramatic showdown with members of his own party’s leadership, he reportedly threatened to resign unless they dropped the measure.

    • Ghannouchi’s position is straightforward: He wants Tunisians to adopt Islamic values, but piety means nothing if imposed by coercion. Islam, he believes, will succeed in persuading people to adopt its truths more effectively if they don’t have its teachings shoved down their throats.
    • willingness to share governing responsibility is probably the single-most-salient factor separating Tunisia’s relative success from Egypt’s disaster
    • Democracy requires parties to learn to work together and take account of one another’s interests. Those out of power must believe they will eventually be re-elected, and those in power must know they, too, will cycle out. That alone creates incentives to treat the opposition with political consideration and moral respect.
  • tags: Tunisia Egypt MB ikhwan ennahda coup

  • tags: Tunisia identity culture education religion Egypt

  • tags: women MENA unions labor labour Tunisia Egypt Jordan

    • women in labor movements are situated at the crux of two very different, but interrelated battles. At the same time that they are resisting the traditional patriarchal governance of their communities and workplaces, they also push back against the “modernizing” forces of Western-style, pro-corporate neoliberal economic policy, and gradually opening new spaces for social emancipation
    • Tunisia is an especially fitting setting for a women’s trade unionist conference because of both a strong labor movement and recent feminist stirrings. The powerful UGTT union federation has played a major role in the transition from dictatorship to something resembling parliamentary democracy (though the assassination of union supporter and opposition leader Chokri Belaïd has shaken the labor movement). Meanwhile feminist politics have begun to percolate as well: The dissident artist Amina Tyler unleashed an angry public uproar by posting protest photos of her bare body scrawled with declarations of self-ownership, in defiance of patriarchs who claim control over women’s bodies
    • privatization of government services, for example, especially impacts sectors where many women work
    • Despite the obstacles, says Al-Khaldi, many of the things women in the labor movement do now in Jordan, such as serving in a few leadership positions on the boards of unions, were out of the question five or ten years ago, when women were openly barred from union activities. Al-Khaldi says men’s attitudes are changing rapidly since the protests erupted two years ago–in large part because women have proven how integral they are to any real revolutionary project.
  • tags: Islam Islamists economics Egypt Tunisia

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia KSA Saudi Morocco Algeria Salafism Salafists Islamism analysis

  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Salafists

  • tags: economy Egypt Tunisia Arabs capitalism opinion

  • A sympathetic account of Qatar’s policies before and during the regional uprisings.

    tags: Qatar foreignpolicy authoritarianism media jazeera US USA Iran KSA Saudi Bahrain Syria Egypt Tunisia Turkey GCC

  • tags: MB ikhwan Egypt Tunisia ennahda politics books Islamists ArabSpring

  • tags: Turkey Egypt Morocco Tunisia constitutions transition democratization

    • “The presidential system could present some risk in a country that has probably not completely forgotten the authoritarian regimes of the past,”
    • The Constitutional Reconciliation Commission was scheduled to complete its task by Dec. 31, 2012, a date that was previously declared to be the last day for the commission to finalize the draft constitution, but it failed to meet the deadline. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently stepped up pressure on the parliamentary commission to speed up its work, saying that his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will try to rewrite the constitution and put it to a referendum if the commission fails to come up with a draft by March.
    • The Venice Commission is an advisory body to the Council of Europe in the field of constitutional law. The commission was founded in the 1990s to provide constitutional assistance to Eastern and Central European countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Turkish officials are also in contact with the commission.

       

    • closely following the constitutional process in countries affected by the Arab Spring revolution, including Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco
  • tags: MENA Egypt Yemen Tunisia Bahrain Syria socialmedia Lynch analysis opinion

    • The effects of social media in facilitating opposition organization and shaping the coverage of protests in the mainstream media may have been at the margins. But much of politics is often waged in those margins.
    • There’s a reason why the catchphrases “it’s never as bad as it seems on Twitter” and “the Tahrir bubble” caught on. I still remember the first time I was driving around a perfectly calm, absolutely normal Cairo while reading a Twitter feed describing apocalyptic clashes and mayhem. So do a lot of others. Social media loves a crisis, and it loves morality tales with a clear good guy and bad guy — preferably identifiable in 140 characters
    • Leaderless movements are great for surviving regime repression and binding together loose coalitions, but less well adapted to formulating a coherent political strategy or mobilizing millions of voters.
    • a strong case can be made that the Internet has contributed to the dangerous polarization that now besets so much of the Arab world. Again, political conflict is driven more by real ideological differences, institutional uncertainty, genuine abuses, and reckless behavior than by anything that happens online. But those pressures seem to be reinforced by the tendency toward polarization and informational bubbles so commonly observed in online environments
    • Twitter enabled the integration of the narratives — but it didn’t demand it in the way that Al Jazeera once did by virtue of its commanding presence in the pan-Arab media. Facebook groups, even more than Twitter, tend to be national or even more local, fragmenting rather than unifying. That could be a positive trend, of course, if it leads to focused engagement with local political debates, relentless transparency, and demands for accountability, which democracy requires. But it comes at a cost to regional unity
    • threatened regimes actively pushed back against these independent new public arenas. Bahrain most famously pioneered the active destruction of online discourse, becoming a model for how to pollute and destroy an online public sphere. At the height of its campaign of sectarian repression, Bahrain’s regime suddenly found thousands of online defenders, known as “eggs” (anonymous Twitter accounts with few followers and no clear identity), which hurled abuse at anyone who dared tweet about the country. At a certain point, many people simply stopped tweeting about Bahrain simply to avoid the trolls. Other challenged regimes took alternative measures, with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait all recently arresting and harassing citizens posting critical tweets
    • Syria’s revolution has proved divisive, where Egypt’s and other uprisings tended to unify, at least at first. The experience of engaging on Syria on social media was more like engaging on famously unpleasant issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Lebanese politics than it was a warm community of shared interest that so many originally found in the Egyptian or Yemeni online communities
    • The net effects of the empowerment of diverse voices and the free flow of information strike me as positive. But if we believe in the transformative power of these changes, we really can’t avoid considering the negatives alongside the positives. And the current state of the Arab revolutions offers us far too many negatives from which to choose
  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Libya media press censorship freedom rankings INRIC

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia authoritarianism democratization analysis

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Egypt and Tunisia links 11/06/2013

  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Syria terrorism al-qaida politics elections democratization

  • tags: Bardo Egypt Tunisia twitter

    Lively discussions with protesters at #Bardo with focus on #Egypt: Killings that happened there inconceivable in #Tunisia, they agreed.

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia opinion analysis military MB ikhwan ennahda authoritarianism

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia Libya MENA uprisings opinion

    • given the Arab spring’s uneven progress, many say the answer is authoritarian modernisation: an Augusto Pinochet, Lee Kuan Yew or Deng Xiaoping to keep order and make the economy grow. Unlike South-East Asians, the Arabs can boast no philosopher-king who has willingly nurtured democracy as his economy has flourished. Instead, the dictator’s brothers and the first lady’s cousins get all the best businesses. And the despots—always wary of stirring up the masses—have tended to duck the big challenges of reform, such as gradually removing the energy subsidies that in Egypt alone swallow 8% of GDP. Even now the oil-rich monarchies are trying to buy peace; but as an educated and disenfranchised youth sniffs freedom, the old way of doing things looks ever more impossible, unless, as in Syria, the ruler is prepared to shed vast amounts of blood to stay in charge
    • Turkey, for all its faults, is more democratic today than it was when the army lurked in the background.
    • Now it is up to Tunisia, the first of the Arab countries to throw off the yoke of autocracy, to show that Arab Islamists can run countries decently. It might just do that: it is on its way to getting a constitution that could serve as the basis of a decent, inclusive democracy. If the rest of the Arab world moves in that direction, it will take many years to do so.
    • Even now, most people in the old Soviet bloc live under repressive regimes—yet few want to go back
  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Turkey MB ikhwan ennahda AKP

  • tags: Tunisia constitution politics party ennahda Egypt

    • “France knows that Islam and democracy are compatible.” While Hollande did say “Islam” and not “Islamism,” it was nevertheless the closest thing to an endorsement of Tunisia’s Ennahda party to come from any French politician.
    • if the Tunisian Tamarod movement has not seen immediate support from the street, they have received a major political partner: Tunisia’s most important opposition coalition, Nidaa Tounes.

       

        The coalition — which scores alongside Ennahda at the top of opinion polls — issued a press release on July 4 in which it made the same demands as Tamarod, the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and new elections.

    • Mabrouka Mbarek, a left-leaning deputy at the Constituent Assembly from the Congress for the Republic Party, expressed her outrage at Essebsi’s position.

       

        “This is unacceptable and dangerous. For Essebsi to say this shows that he has no clue what democracy is, and is not fit to be in government,”

    • “The Egyptian example is present in the mind of Ennahda right now,” said Mohamed Bennour, the spokesman for the Ettakatol Party in an interview at the party’s annual congress on July 7. He went on to say that the events in Egypt could play a “catalyzing” role in Tunisia. “I think the people will move if Ennahda ever makes big mistakes. I think that Ennahda is conscious now of not making mistakes in the current period.”
    • The biggest bone of contention in Tunisian politics right now is the finalization of the country’s constitution, and in particular two articles — Articles 6 and 141 — which secularists say leave the door open for a higher degree of influence of Islamic law.

       

        Article 6 says that the state is the “protector” of “al moqadiset”  — “the holy things” — which could mean a ban on insulting any religious symbols, mosques or even imams, a much stricter blasphemy law than anything Tunisia currently has. Article 141 says that no amendments can be made to the constitution which are not in accordance with “Islam as the religion of the state,” a vague wording that some — including the Ettakatol Party — think could imply that Sharia should be the basis for future constitutional changes.

       

        “Article 141 refers the origin of the law to the Quran and Sharia, and that is very dangerous because it can be interpreted by certain judges as being the law, Sharia as law,” said Bennour.

       

        However, Bennour and others within the socialist Ettakatol Party felt that Ennahda would cede on these controversial points in light of recent events.

    • While the rest of Tunisia prepares to slow down with the reduced hours of the holy month of Ramadan [due to start on July 9], the Constituent Assembly has announced it will continue to work, with a session in the morning and another after the breaking of fast at night.

       

        Perhaps the dire example of Egypt will push Tunisia’s parliament to put aside differences and advance their country to the next phase of democracy.

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia politics analysis MB ikhwan constitution ennahda

    • Why has democratic constitutionalism worked relatively well in one North African Arab country while it has crashed and burned in another? And what will the answer tell us about the future of democracy in the Arabic-speaking world, from Libya to Syria and beyond?
    • During his decades in exile, Ghannouchi wrote extensively about the compatibility of Islam and democracy, and developed a relatively liberal vision of how Islam and the state should interact.

      Skeptics then claimed that Ghannouchi’s views were a cover for a more radical agenda; and some Tunisian secularists still think so. But the evidence thus far is sharply to the contrary. When Islamists called for inserting a reference to Shariah into the Tunisian constitution — usually the sine qua non for any Islamic political party — Ghannouchi took seriously the opposition from secularists. In a dramatic showdown with members of his own party’s leadership, he reportedly threatened to resign unless they dropped the measure.

    • Ghannouchi’s position is straightforward: He wants Tunisians to adopt Islamic values, but piety means nothing if imposed by coercion. Islam, he believes, will succeed in persuading people to adopt its truths more effectively if they don’t have its teachings shoved down their throats.
    • willingness to share governing responsibility is probably the single-most-salient factor separating Tunisia’s relative success from Egypt’s disaster
    • Democracy requires parties to learn to work together and take account of one another’s interests. Those out of power must believe they will eventually be re-elected, and those in power must know they, too, will cycle out. That alone creates incentives to treat the opposition with political consideration and moral respect.
  • tags: Tunisia Egypt MB ikhwan ennahda coup

  • tags: Tunisia identity culture education religion Egypt

  • tags: women MENA unions labor labour Tunisia Egypt Jordan

    • women in labor movements are situated at the crux of two very different, but interrelated battles. At the same time that they are resisting the traditional patriarchal governance of their communities and workplaces, they also push back against the “modernizing” forces of Western-style, pro-corporate neoliberal economic policy, and gradually opening new spaces for social emancipation
    • Tunisia is an especially fitting setting for a women’s trade unionist conference because of both a strong labor movement and recent feminist stirrings. The powerful UGTT union federation has played a major role in the transition from dictatorship to something resembling parliamentary democracy (though the assassination of union supporter and opposition leader Chokri Belaïd has shaken the labor movement). Meanwhile feminist politics have begun to percolate as well: The dissident artist Amina Tyler unleashed an angry public uproar by posting protest photos of her bare body scrawled with declarations of self-ownership, in defiance of patriarchs who claim control over women’s bodies
    • privatization of government services, for example, especially impacts sectors where many women work
    • Despite the obstacles, says Al-Khaldi, many of the things women in the labor movement do now in Jordan, such as serving in a few leadership positions on the boards of unions, were out of the question five or ten years ago, when women were openly barred from union activities. Al-Khaldi says men’s attitudes are changing rapidly since the protests erupted two years ago–in large part because women have proven how integral they are to any real revolutionary project.
  • tags: Islam Islamists economics Egypt Tunisia

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia KSA Saudi Morocco Algeria Salafism Salafists Islamism analysis

  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Salafists

  • tags: economy Egypt Tunisia Arabs capitalism opinion

  • A sympathetic account of Qatar’s policies before and during the regional uprisings.

    tags: Qatar foreignpolicy authoritarianism media jazeera US USA Iran KSA Saudi Bahrain Syria Egypt Tunisia Turkey GCC

  • tags: MB ikhwan Egypt Tunisia ennahda politics books Islamists ArabSpring

  • tags: Turkey Egypt Morocco Tunisia constitutions transition democratization

    • “The presidential system could present some risk in a country that has probably not completely forgotten the authoritarian regimes of the past,”
    • The Constitutional Reconciliation Commission was scheduled to complete its task by Dec. 31, 2012, a date that was previously declared to be the last day for the commission to finalize the draft constitution, but it failed to meet the deadline. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently stepped up pressure on the parliamentary commission to speed up its work, saying that his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will try to rewrite the constitution and put it to a referendum if the commission fails to come up with a draft by March.
    • The Venice Commission is an advisory body to the Council of Europe in the field of constitutional law. The commission was founded in the 1990s to provide constitutional assistance to Eastern and Central European countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Turkish officials are also in contact with the commission.

       

    • closely following the constitutional process in countries affected by the Arab Spring revolution, including Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco
  • tags: MENA Egypt Yemen Tunisia Bahrain Syria socialmedia Lynch analysis opinion

    • The effects of social media in facilitating opposition organization and shaping the coverage of protests in the mainstream media may have been at the margins. But much of politics is often waged in those margins.
    • There’s a reason why the catchphrases “it’s never as bad as it seems on Twitter” and “the Tahrir bubble” caught on. I still remember the first time I was driving around a perfectly calm, absolutely normal Cairo while reading a Twitter feed describing apocalyptic clashes and mayhem. So do a lot of others. Social media loves a crisis, and it loves morality tales with a clear good guy and bad guy — preferably identifiable in 140 characters
    • Leaderless movements are great for surviving regime repression and binding together loose coalitions, but less well adapted to formulating a coherent political strategy or mobilizing millions of voters.
    • a strong case can be made that the Internet has contributed to the dangerous polarization that now besets so much of the Arab world. Again, political conflict is driven more by real ideological differences, institutional uncertainty, genuine abuses, and reckless behavior than by anything that happens online. But those pressures seem to be reinforced by the tendency toward polarization and informational bubbles so commonly observed in online environments
    • Twitter enabled the integration of the narratives — but it didn’t demand it in the way that Al Jazeera once did by virtue of its commanding presence in the pan-Arab media. Facebook groups, even more than Twitter, tend to be national or even more local, fragmenting rather than unifying. That could be a positive trend, of course, if it leads to focused engagement with local political debates, relentless transparency, and demands for accountability, which democracy requires. But it comes at a cost to regional unity
    • threatened regimes actively pushed back against these independent new public arenas. Bahrain most famously pioneered the active destruction of online discourse, becoming a model for how to pollute and destroy an online public sphere. At the height of its campaign of sectarian repression, Bahrain’s regime suddenly found thousands of online defenders, known as “eggs” (anonymous Twitter accounts with few followers and no clear identity), which hurled abuse at anyone who dared tweet about the country. At a certain point, many people simply stopped tweeting about Bahrain simply to avoid the trolls. Other challenged regimes took alternative measures, with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait all recently arresting and harassing citizens posting critical tweets
    • Syria’s revolution has proved divisive, where Egypt’s and other uprisings tended to unify, at least at first. The experience of engaging on Syria on social media was more like engaging on famously unpleasant issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Lebanese politics than it was a warm community of shared interest that so many originally found in the Egyptian or Yemeni online communities
    • The net effects of the empowerment of diverse voices and the free flow of information strike me as positive. But if we believe in the transformative power of these changes, we really can’t avoid considering the negatives alongside the positives. And the current state of the Arab revolutions offers us far too many negatives from which to choose
  • tags: Tunisia Egypt Libya media press censorship freedom rankings INRIC

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia authoritarianism democratization analysis

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Egypt and Tunisia links 09/03/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Egypt and Tunisia links 08/04/2013

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia Libya MENA uprisings opinion

    • given the Arab spring’s uneven progress, many say the answer is authoritarian modernisation: an Augusto Pinochet, Lee Kuan Yew or Deng Xiaoping to keep order and make the economy grow. Unlike South-East Asians, the Arabs can boast no philosopher-king who has willingly nurtured democracy as his economy has flourished. Instead, the dictator’s brothers and the first lady’s cousins get all the best businesses. And the despots—always wary of stirring up the masses—have tended to duck the big challenges of reform, such as gradually removing the energy subsidies that in Egypt alone swallow 8% of GDP. Even now the oil-rich monarchies are trying to buy peace; but as an educated and disenfranchised youth sniffs freedom, the old way of doing things looks ever more impossible, unless, as in Syria, the ruler is prepared to shed vast amounts of blood to stay in charge
    • Turkey, for all its faults, is more democratic today than it was when the army lurked in the background.
    • Now it is up to Tunisia, the first of the Arab countries to throw off the yoke of autocracy, to show that Arab Islamists can run countries decently. It might just do that: it is on its way to getting a constitution that could serve as the basis of a decent, inclusive democracy. If the rest of the Arab world moves in that direction, it will take many years to do so.
    • Even now, most people in the old Soviet bloc live under repressive regimes—yet few want to go back

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Egypt and Tunisia links 07/07/2013

  • tags: Egypt Tunisia politics analysis MB ikhwan constitution ennahda

    • Why has democratic constitutionalism worked relatively well in one North African Arab country while it has crashed and burned in another? And what will the answer tell us about the future of democracy in the Arabic-speaking world, from Libya to Syria and beyond?
    • During his decades in exile, Ghannouchi wrote extensively about the compatibility of Islam and democracy, and developed a relatively liberal vision of how Islam and the state should interact.

      Skeptics then claimed that Ghannouchi’s views were a cover for a more radical agenda; and some Tunisian secularists still think so. But the evidence thus far is sharply to the contrary. When Islamists called for inserting a reference to Shariah into the Tunisian constitution — usually the sine qua non for any Islamic political party — Ghannouchi took seriously the opposition from secularists. In a dramatic showdown with members of his own party’s leadership, he reportedly threatened to resign unless they dropped the measure.

    • Ghannouchi’s position is straightforward: He wants Tunisians to adopt Islamic values, but piety means nothing if imposed by coercion. Islam, he believes, will succeed in persuading people to adopt its truths more effectively if they don’t have its teachings shoved down their throats.
    • willingness to share governing responsibility is probably the single-most-salient factor separating Tunisia’s relative success from Egypt’s disaster
    • Democracy requires parties to learn to work together and take account of one another’s interests. Those out of power must believe they will eventually be re-elected, and those in power must know they, too, will cycle out. That alone creates incentives to treat the opposition with political consideration and moral respect.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Democracies, substantive and procedural – Egypt’s continuing adventures in political system design

Voting for one’s leaders is an important and necessary component of democracy, but elections alone do not a democracy make. This idea of an absolute majoritarian mandate conferred based on election results is enormously damaging, and it harms democracy rather than furthers it – Michael Koplow

Michael posted the above on his frequently interesting blog – Ottomans and Zionists - before the Egyptian armed forces removed President Morsi from power, a move he warned against.

At stake here is a more nuanced understanding of democracy than the minimalist one hewed to by political science during the Cold War and by some (semi-)authoritarian regimes since – elections equal democracy equals elections. There are two main aspects to democracy that are relevant to analyzing what just happened in Egypt and, more importantly, what happens next: procedural and substantive.

I’m not going to take a position on whether or not what happened in Egypt was a coup, although that seems to be the game du jour on social media and among the western commentariat. Whether or not it was matters in only two significant respects that I can see. One, it may affect the ability of the United States and others to continue to give aid. But I suspect practical and strategic interests (not least those of the companies whose goods and services the aid pays for) will win out over semantic concerns. It may lead to Egypt’s suspension from the African Union also, but such a setback would surely be temporary and not hugely impactful.

Two, it helps to categorize phenomena if we are to draw apt comparisons in order to make predictions. Answering the question “of what is this an instance?” is the beginning of comparative political analysis. Even if this is classified as a coup, rather than a popular revolution, the prognosis is not too bad for a transition to democracy, according to research reported over at the Monkey Cage. So in the end, I don’t care too much what we call it (for now).

Back to procedural and substantive democracy. If you have time to read a full essay on these two conceptions of democracy, here’s one by Ryan Moboloc. He discusses Amartya Sen’s arguments about “positive freedoms” as foundational in a meaningful democracy:

Sen writes that freedom depends on elements such as social and economic arrangements, as well as political and civil rights (Sen 1999, 3). For instance, the positive freedom to participate in public discussion is something that provides the atmosphere for people to demand from their government the realization and enjoyment of just entitlements. While the prevalence of poverty can be attributed to “the presence of dictatorships, systematic social and economic deprivation, and the apparent neglect of provisions for public facilities, as well as intolerance and repression in many states” (Ibid.), the oligarchic arrangements in third world economies deprive the poor of the opportunity to determine their goals in life. People are powerless in leveling the playing field. They have no real voice. Equality in this sense cannot only be in terms of primary goods, but of “basic freedoms” or capabilities (Sen 1999; Sen 1992) that empower people in creating just institutions and fighting bad governance.

For Sen, the substantive freedoms of the people are instrumental in maintaining a better social, economic, and political life, and this happens because “people become part of the process of democratic participation” (Ibid., 4). This seems to go beyond the formalities of the basic structure, for while representation can empower some sectors through their elected representatives, the political reality however, is that when their duly elected representatives are already in power, public interest becomes secondary. The perpetuation of one’s political career becomes the priority of their elected leaders.

President Morsi’s government did not empower ordinary Egyptians, but rather concentrated its efforts on advancing the careers and agenda of Muslim Brotherhood members. We should be very mindful that the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that preceded Morsi’s election was no more successful in building positive freedoms for Egyptians. In neither instance were ordinary citizens’ voices heard in the corridors of power: this is ultimately what drives people into the streets, where their voices cannot easily be ignored.

The real test of the transition underway now will be not only in how quickly and effectively it moves to put in place “settled, legitimate rules of the game or institutional channels to settle political arguments” - functioning procedural democracy - but also in how well the evolving system is able to promote positive freedoms for all Egyptians. Will the process be inclusive? And will it attend to expanding the real life chances of ordinary people, meeting basic needs and allowing them to pursue a better life?

Misreading democracy as electorally-enabled majoritarianism contributed mightily to the massive demonstrations of 30 June and the major setback the Muslim Brotherhood has suffered. One can hope that the Brotherhood learns to appreciate a more substantive concept of democracy. The military-backed transitional government and whatever comes after it must do the same. Fulfilling the demands of the 2011 uprising for bread, dignity and freedom involves far more than free and fair elections: even if they are a necessary condition, they are insufficient.

Egyptians have become expert at making themselves heard when pushed too far. Government should learn to listen sooner and more responsively.

Tagged , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,663 other followers

%d bloggers like this: