Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In Bahrain, Democracy Activists Regret Easing of U.S. Pressure :: Washington Post

The Bush administration, which said several years ago that greater democracy in the Middle East was a cornerstone of its foreign policy, has recently tempered its demands.

Democracy activists say that with the absence of strong grass-roots movements, Western pressure is the only remaining option that could force totalitarian governments to give up some of their power.

"The dictatorships in the region are the real winners of the shift in U.S. policy," said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, editor of Forbes Arabia. "They are not serious about reform and only respond to international pressure. They can easily repress their populations because they have total control of all state apparatuses."
. . .
Abduljalil al-Singace, a university professor and head of Haq, said he had felt the sting of the U.S. "change of heart" in actively supporting democracy in the region. Singace has visited Washington five times in the past two years to lobby members of Congress to press the Bahraini government for more democracy. The reception on the Hill, he said, has grown colder and colder.
. . .
Bahraini activists have encouraged people to take a look at the country on Google Earth, and they have set up a special user group whose members have access to more than 40 images of royal palaces.
The UAE holds Federal National Council elections December 16, 18, and 20. 465 candidates are standing for election including 65 females. Here's what candidate Dr Amal Abdullah Juma Al Qubaisi, a professor of architecture at UAE University, has to say:
"The UAE identity has been lost. We have to know what we have to build on it; not only by conserving sites and buildings, but by reflecting the spirit of traditional architecture and local character in contemporary architecture and planning.

This is the side of preservation that you will see. The part you will feel is by getting younger local generation to get acquainted with their ... country's history."
Here's what the BBC reported in December 2005:
The 40-member council serves only in an advisory capacity and has no legislative powers.

Sheikh Khalifa hopes the reforms will encourage political participation by citizens of the UAE.

However, the election will be limited to a number of citizens, appointed to local councils by the rulers of the seven emirates - who would then be able to choose half the membership of the national council.

The other half of the council will be appointed by the ruling families.

The UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated.

However, it is the only state in the region not to have elected bodies.
In my assessment, the general view of the citizens is why rock the boat when things are going well, small steps towards a more democratic form of government are sufficient. There is some (somewhat contradictory) unease, though, over loss of national identity. Not surprising given that nationals comprise 20% of the population, and most structures that existed 50 years ago are gone.



Blogger Terry Crane said...

You answered your own question - without strong grassroot movement, any external pressure towards democracy will result in electing something worse then present. Don't forget, your beloved Palestinians elected Hamas. Iraqis didn't exactly voted for pro-Western integrationists either.

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, let me get this right. We Americans get to fight and die so the Arab world can pick sectarian fights with each other, and then elect fascist terror groups. Wonder why that support is waning do you?

9:38 AM  

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