Due to the deep divisions among the likely winners in the elections, the Shi’i parties, the March 7 elections will just be the first step in determining the distribution of power in the Iraqi political system.
Over the next year, Egypt will hold three important elections, none of which stand any chance of redistributing power in the country. Egypt needs long-term democratic reforms, and the United States can play an effective role in promoting those reforms.
The Iraqi elections are decisive in determining the leadership and makeup of the next Iraqi government, which will face critical challenges in the areas of political inclusion, maintaining security, managing internal tensions over Kirkuk, and rebuilding relations with the GCC and other neighbours.
For the Kurds, the forthcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections are a litmus test for the viability of the power-sharing agreement between the various political, ethnic, and religious groups in the Kurdistan region.
Mohamed ElBaradei has an opportunity to help Egyptians achieve a more democratic government. To succeed, he must do three things: remind Egypt that democracy requires an engaged citizenry, call on the opposition to formulate well-defined political programs, and move back to Egypt so that he can engage directly with its citizens.
Since 2004, Egypt has experienced more than 1600 labor protests, which have dwarfed political protests in scale and consequence. What are the political ramifications of increased labor unrest? Are the labor movements a harbinger for a more active and mobilized Egyptian society?
While an ad hoc committee has lifted the ban barring candidates suspected of ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from participating in the Iraqi elections, it did not dismiss the charges against those candidates and is widely seen as the result of internal and external political pressures.
The steady rise of sectarian tensions over the past few years in Egypt is the result of an indecisive state, an incendiary media, and a failure of civil institutions to stand up for the equal rights of all Egyptians.
The Muslim Brotherhood was once the most dynamic opposition force in Egypt, but the government’s efforts to exclude it from political participation and internal conflict within the Brotherhood itself have made it practically indistinguishable from the country’s other opposition parties.
Islamist parties and movements in Arab countries have gained political influence by making the difficult strategic decision to participate in the existing legal political process, forcing them to confront thorny ideological issues.