Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has once again demonstrated its capacity for popular mobilization and thus its position as the most important opposition group in Egypt—even though it remains illegal. The occasion was the sudden death of the Brotherhood's leader, Supreme Guide Mamoun Al Hodeiby, on January 9. The death occurred too late at night for the morning newspapers to report it.
Morocco's King Muhammad VI, who ascended the throne in 1999 following the death of his father, King Hassan II, is moving ahead with reforms in some areas such as women's rights. But he maintains an ambivalent, sometimes hostile attitude toward the country's new independent press.
While satellite television often attracts the lion's share of analysis about new media and their effect on prospects for democratization in the Middle East and North Africa, another technology may already have had at least as large an impact: the Internet.
Labor markets are rarely considered in discussions of political reform in the Middle East. Yet the unprecedented labor crisis confronting the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region underscores the urgent need for both a new social contract—the basic laws and understandings that define the relationship between the state and labor—and for political reform.
At a recent conference on the political effects of Arab satellite television, a prominent Arab talk show host called out from the back of the room, "I will tell you a secret about television. It is all about spectacle. It is about spectacle first, spectacle second, and spectacle third."
In the face of Arab governments' ongoing, heavy-handed efforts to control public debate, the Internet has emerged as a platform for voices—especially those of Islamists—denied a place in the mainstream, state-owned media.
Over the past two decades the politics of Egyptian cinema—the only commercial film industry in the Arabic-speaking world—have been shaped by broader issues such as economic globalization and concepts of national identity. Some films have addressed overtly political themes, including "the American dream," injustices inflicted on the Palestinians, and Islamist protest movements.
The headline of the state-owned newspaper Al Ahram described December 7 (the last day of voting in Egypt's month-long, three-stage parliamentary election) as “the most violent day” of the election. The independent daily Al Masry Al Yom went a bit further. Under photos of mayhem that could have been shot in Nablus or Ramallah, the newspaper declared that “Egypt can now breathe a sigh of relief.
The role of the Congress in shaping U.S. policy on democracy promotion in the Middle East is multifaceted. Not only does the Congress provide funding for democracy promotion, but it also helps formulate a strategic vision, monitors the administration's work, and recommends structural revisions in the administration to help achieve the goals set.
For three decades, human rights violations in Libya were committed under the rubric of “revolutionary defense.” The government and its extensive security apparatus imprisoned or “disappeared” critics who challenged the ideology of the 1969 revolution that overthrew the monarchy or of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi's system of Jamahariya, the “state of the masses.”
To the surprise of no one, on October 24 Tunisians turned out in record numbers—91.5 percent of the country's 4.6 million eligible voters—to re-elect President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali to a fourth consecutive five-year term. Voters also gave his ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD-Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique), an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections.
In 2002, Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) embarked on an effort to project a new, reformist image. Rising domestic demands for political accountability, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, and popular dissatisfaction with the performance of NDP-led governments have forced the party to reconsider its public profile.
In considering whether parliamentary elections to begin November 9 will mark a significant step toward democratization in Egypt, one can begin by asking how much has changed since the last such elections five years ago.
On September 29, Algerians overwhelmingly endorsed the draft Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, an amnesty law proposed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to grant exemption from prosecution to any member of an armed group for crimes committed in the conflict that began in 1992.
The choice of Tunisia to host the November 16-18 second World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has provoked much controversy. The idea behind the Summit is to bridge the gap between rich and poor countries in a field that has proven to be one of the focal points of present and future progress.
The January 2005 peace agreement has improved Sudan's standing in the international community, as demonstrated by $6 billion in economic support raised at a donors' conference in Oslo in April 2005. Inside Sudan, however, the agreement has revealed new sources of instability.
With its July 2005 establishment of supposedly autonomous commissions to oversee this fall's presidential and parliamentary elections, Egypt joined several Arab countries that have created election management bodies. The ruling National Democratic Party has touted the commissions, headed by judicial figures, as enhancing constitutionally-mandated judicial supervision of the electoral process.