Political reform in Syria is not on. Last year's promises of a “great leap forward”—a rewritten emergency law, citizenship for stateless Kurds, and a new political party law before local elections in 2007—have been shelved.
Foreign democracy assistance organizations working directly with political parties have come into the line of fire as some Arab governments have pushed back against democratization initiatives over the past two years. In Algeria, Bahrain, and Egypt in particular, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) have been among the first to feel pressure.
The Palestinian economy has been in an ever-deepening crisis since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, a crisis rooted in and perpetuated by an extremely inauspicious political setting. The record of economic decline is staggering: domestic output and per capita income have plunged; poverty and unemployment have ballooned; private investment has plummeted.
Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip on June 15, governance has barely functioned. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya in a November 4 speech expressed his dissatisfaction with the paralysis afflicting the executive, judicial, and legislative institutions, accusing the Ramallah government of responsibility.
Shortly after the split between Fatah and Hamas in June 2007, Dianna Buttu, the astute young advisor to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said that watching the rival factions joust for control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was like watching bald men fight over a comb.
You are building your home. But you are having a problem with the architect, who keeps demolishing parts of the house. Sometimes he feels you did not follow the blueprints, sometimes he feels you used sub-standard materials, and sometimes, even though you are sure you followed all the instructions, he just does not like the way it turned out.
With preparations accelerating, it seems increasingly likely that the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) will hold its Sixth General Conference during 2008. Yet given the advanced state of disintegration in which the movement finds itself, it may well be a case of too little too late. Simply put, Fatah’s very survival now hangs in the balance.
The January 28 detention of Riad Seif is the latest development in a campaign of arrests against members of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration launched by Syrian authorities only a week after U.S. President George Bush met with Ma’moun al-Hamsi, Jenkiskhan Hasou, and Ammar Abdul Hamid at the White House in December 2007.
On April 4, Syria issued its first Competition and Anti-Trust Law (Law No 7/2008), which some observers consider a significant marker on the road from a planned to a market economy. The anti-trust legislation follows on the heels of several new laws issued over the past months, including a new commercial law, an incorporation law, and an arbitration law, replacing old ones dating to 1949.
In the Arab world, what UN literature calls national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have emerged in recent years. A few of them—for example in Morocco and Palestine—have attained a degree of autonomy in confronting governments.
The failure of the Palestinian national movement and its shaken credibility in the public eye are giving strength to religious movements, which are expanding to fill a widening gap.
In Iraq, the parliament approved a new investment law in October 2006, which was published in the Official Gazette of Iraq in January 2007. The law aims to facilitate investment by Iraqi and foreign private investors, for example by protecting their rights and property.