Posts Tagged ‘process’

On Denying “Radicals” Due Process (Fighting Bob LaFollette Poster)

July 15th, 2012 Comments off

‘Shafiq wins 100% of the votes cast by Egyptians living in Israel’

June 11th, 2012 Comments off

“…”The results showed that Shafiq was well in the lead, which makes sense for Israel,” the source said, adding that he hoped the losing side would respect the democratic process and honor Egypt‘s peace treaty with Israel.
Shafiq will certainly honor it, and so would Morsi, whose expressions are more moderate than the other candidates’.” …”

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‘A “serious” diplomatic process…’

May 27th, 2012 Comments off

The White House’s confidence in President Obama’s foreign policy record – about which we have been recently commenting – is now a settled part of Democratic campaign rhetoric. Governor Romney has yet to respond in kind, and senior Republican strategists are advising against making foreign policy a major issue. However, the troubled international landscape is likely to intrude and offer him a number of opportunities. Of these, IranSyria and the ongoing Euro crisis represent the most intractable problems facing the Administration. The ambiguous outcome of the May 23rd/24th P5+1 talks with Iran have unleashed a high-decibel duel in Washington between the respective advocates of diplomacy andconfrontation. With new reports from the IAEA that Iran may have enriched uranium to a higher-than-expected level, there is little doubt that Obama will feel increasing pressure to take tougher action. Following the Baghdad talks, US representatives have visited GCC and Israel to provide briefings and to affirm the Administration’s policy of not allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. However, US officials tell us that they believe that they have entered a “serious” diplomatic process. Given the new tighter sanctions scheduled to go into effect on July 1st, they calculate that Tehran will soon be ready to make the necessary concessions on not enriching uranium beyond the 3.5-5% range. The Administration continues to tell us that they reject the military option and continue to make the case for restraint to Israel. On the Euro crisis, there is deepening anxiety in Washington that an orderly solution will not be found and that there will be serious knock-on impact on the US economy. At the May 19th G-8 summit, Obama gave backing to French President Hollande’s ideas for a “growth agenda” – which parallel US actions – and added to the pressure on German Chancellor Merkel to follow a fiscally more expansive strategy. It was also agreed – albeit unannounced – that the appropriate Central Banks are ready to intervene in a crisis with substantial swap lines. Finally on Egypt, State Department strategists tell us that they are disquieted by the results of the first round of the presidential elections. As one commented to us: “The two remaining candidates represent the polar opposite of Egyptian politics. The electoral process seems to be illuminating and confirming these tensions not relieving them.” 

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My belated take on Egypt’s elections

May 24th, 2012 Comments off

I have been incredibly busy in the last month, and then traveling and taking a break over the last week away from all the electoral folly, hence this blog has provided scant coverage of Egypt’s presidential election thus far. I hope to correct this in the next few days — and in any case there’s plenty of commentary elsewhere — and provide some opinion about the way this election might go.

But first, a few words about the big picture — what this election means and how to situate it in the post-Mubarak era. At a very simple level, this election is the beginning of the end of the transition period (if defined as return to civilian government). Its outcome will be a new president for Egypt, and — apart from the writing of a new constitution — the bizarre interregnum launched by the referendum on constitutional amendments that took place in March 2011, a little over a month after Mubarak stepped down. The electoral process is attracting a lot of media frenzy inside and outside Egypt, and a not inconsiderable (if often mixed) level of enthusiasm among Egyptians, since it is the first election in which the outcome is not obvious to all. No doubt turnout will be high, and hopefully the voting process itself not too flawed since one would think the military regime now in charge can’t afford to blatantly rig the poll. But, globally, we’ll see Egyptians excited about having a real choice before them rather than an obvious outcome, and a real sense of uncertainty about who might win.

That’s pretty much the only positive thing I have to say about the presidential elections, because everything else appears to have been rigged to put an end to a transformation of Egyptian politics that was the hope of the January 25 revolution. Like the parliamentary elections — readers will remember I thought last November they should be postponed because of the desultory preparation for them, among other things — these presidential elections are taking place amidst a process whose legitimacy is already undermined. Most significantly, Article 28 of the constitutional declaration currently in place makes it impossible to appeal the decisions of the Presidential Election Commission (PEC) running the poll. This practice — very unusual by global standards of free and fair electoral process — has already resulted in the elected parliamentary majority passing a law to exclude candidates tied to the former regime by law only to be overuled by the PEC. The “political exclusion law” would have applied to Ahmed Shafiq, who has experienced a late surge and now leads in many polls, the decision is important. Later too the PEC could make controversial decisions, notably about complaints of vote-rigging or other irregularities.

Then there is the political context. Parliament is being threatened with dissolution by a court ruling expected on June 6, which could have the electoral law used in the parliamentary elections declared unconstitutional. MPs rushed last week to prepare a law that would change the Supreme Constitutional Court’s regulations to make its opinions only binding on parliament with parliament’s approval, a move which provoked an outcry from judges (including the ones on the PEC), NGOs and SCAF. The SCAF is floating an addendum to the Constitutional Declaration currently in place, on the pretext that it needs to further define the powers of the president, although arguably its current powers should go to the president until a new constitution is written. It appears to be trying to insert the military as a fourth power with certain privileges in the system of government, which would be a bad precedent to set even if some informal privileges are expected to be kept. Most worryingly, clearly the SCAF sees its own existence as going beyond the transitional period, with its authority potentially clashing with that of the president. It has also been reported in the press that Tantawi expects to still be the head of the SCAF / Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces , although the new president should have the prerogative of nominating a new defense minister and become the new Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

In other words, Egypt may have a new president by the end of June but there will be plenty of confusion about what powers he has, and who’s really in charge.

Charting the candidates’ progress according to the al-Ahram poll, considered to be the most reliable

We talk about all these problems and the guessing game of who might make it to the second round in our latest podcast, but let me expand on some things here. As I see it, the likely outcomes are all a runoff (although a couple of weeks ago I might have said there is a small chance of Moussa getting over 50% in the first round). The above chart shows the latest polling available. At this point it’s worth stepping back and consider that electoral choices are dependent on what’s available. Here’s a chart I made of where the various candidates stand on two axes: Islamist-secularist and establishment-revolutionary (click for larger version).

In the center of that (unscientific, guesstimated) chart you have a big hole where I would place Mohamed ElBaradei. Basically, if he had been there, he would have taken votes away from Aboul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahi’s alleged late surge would have probably not happened. I think ElBaradei is largely correct in his critique of the electoral environment and legally nonsense that has characterized the transition, but one does wonder whether his decision not to run because of that critique was the right one. There clearly appears to be a desire for a non-felool, non-Islamist but Islamist-friendly, middle-of-the-road, elite but not establishment, candidate. 

Now to what might happen next. At the end of last week, according to the polls, the likely runoffs would have been:

  • Moussa v. Morsi (Moussa probably favored to win)
  • Moussa v. Shafik (Moussa wins big)
  • Shafik v. Morsi (Morsi favored but who knows, potential rigging and large-scale boycott)

Less likely are:

  • Morsi v. Aboul Fotouh (Aboul Fotouh wins in a landslide)
  • Moussa v. Aboul Fotouh (Aboul Fotouh wins, unless MB does unthinkable and strikes a deal with Moussa as some speculate)

But to be honest it’s quite hard to tell. As I write this post on the second day of voting, while some exit polls speak of a Morsi surge, perhaps a more surprising phenomenon is that neo-Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahi is reportedly doing well, at least in the greater Cairo area. I suppose that’s the result of the hole left by Mohamed ElBaradei’s absence from the poll — Sabahi is the only non-Islamist non-felool candidate with decent name recognition left. I’m skeptical he’ll make it to the runoff, though, so his big impact is to take votes away from Aboul Fotouh and making the race about felool (Shafik), felool lite (Moussa), and MB (Morsi). Which won’t be to the liking of many revolutionary types: in the case of a Moussa-Shafik runoff or a Shafik-Morsi runoff (the nightmare scenario) you can expect more unrest and a delegitimization of the election.

Another interesting thing is that, according to the press, the candidates who are carrying out the most campaign violations (including vote-buying) are Morsi and Shafik, while both these and Aboul Fotouh have been cited by the Presidential Election Commission as having violating the electoral silence by holding press conferences (which means that, if one of them is elected, Egypt’s new president could theoretically face prison time!) The Morsi and Shafik supporters in particular seem to be engaged in vote-buying, and fights have erupted between them. That would hint at the intensity of the military vs. brotherhood standoff, and perhaps what we can expect if it ends up being those two in the second round.

Many observers reported lower than expected turnouts yesterday, which is odd as if anything there aren’t enough polling stations for the eligible voters. Today appears to have gone up a lot, and in any case the first day of voting was said to have shown a 25–35% turnout, which might lead us to expect a 50–70% final turnout for the first round. The government appears keen to ensure a high turnout, and even decided at the last minute to give civil servants the day off. Whatever disappointment prevails about these elections right now, I think it’s unlikely we’ll see a turnout substantially lower than 50%, though.

The vote-count starts tonight, probably around 10pm, and may last a long time as things are likely to be contested and closely scrutinized. It may take days for results to come out, although we’re likely to have leaks and some indications of the general direction. There’s going to be tensions in the next few days, and then more tension in the next few weeks before it’s all over. But I do get the feeling that Morsi is poised to dominate in the first round only to lose in most situations in the second. We’ll find out soon enough if I’m right.

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Israel PM replies to Abbas letter on peace process

May 12th, 2012 Comments off

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuIsrael’s chief negotiator on Saturday went to Ramallah to hand over a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, sources on both sides said.

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How the Copts Will Choose their Next Pope

March 19th, 2012 Comments off

With the death of Pope Shenouda III this weekend (see my appreciation of Shenouda here), the Coptic Church of Egypt embarks on a process for choosing the next Pope, who will be the 118th successor of Saint Mark the Evangelist. Since Shenouda reigned for 40 years, it has been a long time since the process of succession has been implemented, so even Copts may need to familiarize themselves with the process.

It is a process likely to take several months at least. There are reports suggesting the Church may delay the election until after the election of an Egyptian President, no excessive delay may be required: the President should be chosen by July 1, while in 1971 the interval between the death of Pope Kyrillos VI and the election of Shenouda was eight months. (It can take even longer; in 1956-59 it took more than two years.) The basic rules currently in force were laid down by a Presidential decree of 1957 by Gamal Abdel Nasser, (link is in Arabic), prior to the election of Kyrillos VI.

Acting Pope Bp. Pachomius

The first step in the transition is the election of a locum tenens or Acting Pope who will preside over the Church during the transition. The holder of this post is considered ineligible to be elected Pope since he will have overseen the electoral process, though in the last century there were exceptions to this. The Acting Pope has already been named, Bishop Pachomius (Bakhomious), Metropolitan Archbishop of Buheira.

The Holy Synod — the body of Coptic bishops — is the Church’s man ecclessiastical body; the Millet Council (Al-Maglis al-Milli) is the lay body of prominent Copts who have provided a voice for the laity since 1874. These two bodies play a key role in the creation of the electoral council to choose the Pope. Each nominates nine of its members, presided over by the Acting Pope to form a 19-member Council, which receives nominations. These are then voted on by the Holy Synod, the Millet Council, and a third body, created by the 1957 decree, which consists of prominent Copts from each diocese, former Ministers and MPs, and other notables. This body may be the way the state maintains some oversight in the selection process.  At the end of a vetting process, the Electoral Council announces the names of no fewer than five and no more than six or seven candidates. This process can easily occupy three months, so once again little delay is required to postpone the papal election past that of the President.

Under the Presidential decree, the only specified requirements are that the candidates be 40 years old, never married, and have spent at least 15 years as a monk. However, an ancient tradition of the church was to choose the Pope directly from a monastery, not from the bishops (though the bishops themselves are all drawn from the monks, in the Eastern tradition). This was relaxed in the 20th century and several Popes wee elected from the bishops. Shenouda himself was a general bishop (administering a Church-wide department, not an individual diocese). There are some who favor returning to a monks-only rule; others who accept election of a General Bishop but not a Diocesan Bishop, and others who believe precedent allows the election of Diocesan Bishops as well. At least one prominent figure, Bishop Bishoy, is both a General Bishop as Secretary of the Holy Synod and the Diocesan Metropolitan Bishop of Damietta. This eligibility issue is likely to be argued within the Church in the coming weeks and months.

In the Acts of the Apostles, when the eleven remaining Apostles sought to replace Judas Iscariot, they chose a new Apostle by lot. The final decision in the election of a Coptic Pope is still carried out, by ancient tradition, by what is known as the Altar Lot. The Coptic faithful, including their children, gather at the Cathedral of Saint Mark in Abbasiyya. A young boy is randomly chosen from the congregation, blindfolded, and draws a name from a box on the altar. The name drawn becomes the successor of Saint Mark.

Just as Italians love to speculate on the papabile or papal candidates when it is time to elect a Roman Catholic Pope, so Copts speculate about the candidates for their Papacy, and the question of whether Diocesan Bishops are eligible comes into play.  But that will be the subject of a separate post in the coming weeks.

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You will never ever read something like this in the US press

March 11th, 2012 Comments off
“But Israel has even less control over its own destiny than Portugal or Britain do. The main reason is that, unlike those countries, Israel refuses to give up its empire. Israel is unable to sustain its imperial ambitions in the West Bank, or even to articulate them coherently. Having allowed its founding ideology to carry it relentlessly and unthinkingly into what Gershom Gorenburg calls an “Accidental Empire” of radical religious-nationalist settlements that openly defy its own courts, Israel is politically incapable of extricating itself. The partisan battles engendered by its occupation of Palestinian territory render it less and less able to pull itself free. It is immobilised, pinned down, in a conflict that is gradually killing it. Countries facing imperial twilight, like Britain in the late 1940s, are often seized by a sense of desperate paralysis. For over a decade, the tone of Israeli politics has been a mix of panic, despair, hysteria and resignation.
No one bears greater responsibility for the trap Israel finds itself in today than Mr Netanyahu. As prime minister in the late 1990s, he did more than any other Israeli leader to destroy the peace process. Illegal land grabs by settlers were tolerated and quietly encouraged in the confused expectation that they would aid territorial negotiations. Violent clashes and provocations erupted whenever the peace process seemed on the verge of concrete steps forward; the most charitable spin would be that the Israelis failed to exercise the restraint they might have shown in retaliating against Palestinian terrorism, had they been truly interested in progress towards a two-state solution. Mr Netanyahu believed that the Oslo peace agreements were a mirage, and his government’s actions in the late 1990s helped make it true.
Having trapped themselves in a death struggle with Palestinians that they cannot acknowledge or untangle, Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran. An Iranian nuclear bomb would not be a happy development for Israel. Neither was Pakistan’s, nor indeed North Korea’s. The notion that it represents a new Holocaust is overstated, and the belief that the source of Israel’s existential woes can be eliminated with an airstrike is mistaken. But Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis because, unlike the Palestinians, it can be fitted into a familiar ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook: the eliminationist anti-Semite. With brain-cudgeling predictability, Mr Netanyahu marked his meeting with Mr Obama by presenting him with a copy of the Book of Esther. That book concerns a plot by Haman, vizier of King Ahasuerus of Persia, to massacre his country’s Jews, and the efforts of the beautiful Esther, Ahasuerus’s secretly Jewish wife, to persuade the king to stop them. It is a version of the same narrative of repression, threatened extermination and resistance that Jews commemorate at Passover in the prayer “Ve-hi she-amdah”: “Because in every generation they rise up to destroy us, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, delivers us from their hands.”
Mr Netanyahu is less attractive than Esther, but he seems to be wooing Mr Obama and the American public just as effectively. The American-Israeli relationship now resembles the sort of crazy co-dependency one sometimes finds in doomed marriages, where the more stubborn and unstable partner drags the other into increasingly delusional and dangerous projects whose disastrous results seem only to legitimate their paranoid outlook. If Mr Netanyahu manages to convince America to back an attack on Iran, it is to be hoped that the catastrophic consequences will not be used to justify the attack that led to them.  Mr Netanyahu thinks the Zionist mission was to give the Jewish people control over their destiny. No people has control over its destiny when it is at war with its neighbours. But in any case, that is only one way of thinking of the Zionist mission. Another mission frequently cited by early Zionists was to help Jews grow out of the “Ghetto mentality”. Mr Netanyahu’s gift to Mr Obama shows he’s still in it.” (thanks Abbas)

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UN deplores Israeli approval of more settlements in West Bank

February 23rd, 2012 Comments off

The top United Nations envoy for the Middle East peace process today described as "deplorable" Israel's announcement that is has given approval to a large number of new settlement units deep inside th
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Karzai set to meet Taliban in Qatar to take Afghan peace process forward

January 31st, 2012 Comments off

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that he will personally attend a meeting with Taliban figures in Saudi Arabia, working around Western efforts to coordinate the peace process.
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The Way Forward in the Middle East — Peled & Peled

January 29th, 2012 Comments off

Yoav Peled and Horit Herman Peled write in a guest column for Informed Comment

The Way Forward in the Middle East

Reversing a bi-partisan US policy in effect for the last two decades, the Republican National Committee recently endorsed the one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, resolving that “peace can be afforded the [Middle east] region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.” In all likelihood, this was an unintended consequence of the Republican party’s election-year pro-Israel frenzy. But, intentional or not, the RNC statement is correct. The Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” that aims at the establishment of two independent states, Israel and Palestine, bounded, more or less, by the 1967 borders, is totally bankrupt. If any evidence is needed, just look at the seventeen futile initiatives meant to revive Oslo process since its demise in 2000.

What makes the two-state solution unachievable is the fact that since 1967 Israel has settled close to three quarters of a million Jews in the territories it captured from Jordan in 1967. About one-third of those are in the area Israel defined as Jerusalem and annexed in 1967, declaring it to be non-negotiable. Of the remaining five hundred thousand, the lowest estimate of the number that would have to be removed in order for a viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state to be set up in the West Bank is one hundred thousand. This is a task that no Israeli government, committed as it may be to the two-state solution, would be able to carry out, politically. To this day no Israeli government has removed even one of the West Bank “outposts” that are illegal by Israeli law (all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal by international law), despite promises to the US and several decisions by Israel’s own High Court of Justice.

The declared purpose of the settlement drive in the West Bank (as in the other occupied territories) was to change demographic realities in order to make Israel’s withdrawal from those territories impossible. This purpose has been achieved. Not only are the settlers, their family members and their supporters an electoral power block that cannot be ignored, settlers and their supporters now make up a significant proportion of the command structure of Israel’s security forces, the same forces that would have to carry out a decision to remove the settlers.

To counter this argument, critics may point to the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza in 2005. That example, however, actually supports our argument. In order to remove 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza, an easily isolated region of no religious significance to Jews, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a military hero idolized by both the settlers and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had to deploy the entire man and woman power of all of Israel’s security forces. Moreover, the Gaza withdrawal was not done in agreement with the Palestinians, or in order to facilitate peace with them. It was done unilaterally, in order to make Israel’s control of Gaza more efficient. Judging by this example, removing 100,000 settlers from the West Bank, in order to enable the establishment of a Palestinian state, would be an impossible task.

Instead of pursuing the mirage of a two-state solution, would-be peace makers should recognize the fact that Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in fact constitute one state that has been in existence for nearly forty-five years, the longest lasting political formation in these territories since the Ottoman Empire. (The British Mandate for Palestine lasted thirty years; Israel in its pre-1967 borders lasted only nineteen years). The problem with that state, from a democratic, humanistic perspective, is that forty percent of its residents, the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, are non-citizens deprived of all civil and political rights. The solution to this problem is simple, although deeply controversial: establishing one secular, non-ethnic, democratic state with equal citizenship rights to all in the entire area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

Supporters of the two-state solution have always used the prospect of one state as a threat, and still do. If a two-state solution is not implemented, world leaders from President Obama on down have warned, Israel will have to face the reality of being a state that could be either Jewish or democratic, but not both. But instead of a threat this could be seen as an opportunity. The Arab Spring has, for the first time, opened up the possibility of true democratization in several Middle Eastern and North African countries. Instead of viewing this development with alarm, as it has been doing, Israel could join this process and democratize the entire territory under its effective control.

The stability of the future secular, democratic Israeli-Palestinian state would depend not only on it being truly democratic, but also on the strictest constitutional separation between state and religion. This should not mean forced secularization or placing restrictions on the free exercise of religion, but it does mean that the state will neither sanction nor subsidize religious activities and institutions, nor will it tolerate religious practices that are discriminatory towards women. In the present state of affairs this idea sounds utterly utopian, because both Israeli and Palestinian societies are becoming more and more religious and suspicious of each other. But as the young activists of Tahrir Square and elsewhere have shown, powerful liberal, democratic, emancipatory undercurrents exist underneath the placid façade of many Middle Eastern societies. These forces, we are convinced, exist in Israel and Palestine too and, given the opportunity, could transform the political reality and bring an end to the hundred-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yoav Peled ( teaches political science at Tel Aviv University.
Horit Herman Peled ( teaches art at Oranim College.

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