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Fledgeling Democracies Take First Tottering Steps

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LIBYA HOLDS FIRST FULLY FREE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS SINCE 1952 WITH HUGE FEMALE PARTICIPATION:

TUNISIA’S NEW “DEMOCRATIC” GOVERNMENT ALREADY SEEKING TO CONTROL STATE OWNED MEDIA OUTLETS:

EGYPT’S ARMY, WITH VAST BUSINESS INTERESTS, IN NO HURRY TO HAND POWER TO DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRESIDENT:

YEMEN, FOLLOWING ONE–CANDIDATE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, FACING HUGE PROBLEMS OF POVERTY, INSURGENCY AND STARVATION:

BAHRAIN AND GULF STATES STILL CONTROLLED BY BACKWARD FACING FAMILY AUTOCRACIES AND NO REAL DEMOCRACY YET IN SIGHT:

TIMELINE – 8th JULY 2012 14.08 GMT:

Congratulations to Libya on holding yesterday its first fully free parliamentary election since 1952.

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Democracy in Libya – “I voted!”

Turnout was thought to be around 60% and notable for the large number of women who were voting for the first time.

At some polling stations women easily out-numbered men.

The election will select a 200 member General National Congress (GNC) from the 2,600 individual candidates and 400 political organisations who stood in the poll.

The most significant party to emerge so far is the Justice and Construction Party, consisting mainly of members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The GNC when elected will pick a prime minister and cabinet. The GNC was also meant to choose 60 members to make up a committee to write a new Libyan constitution which will be voted on in a referendum next year, but the National Transitional Council (NTC), which will stand down as soon as a new government has been formed, has said the the constitutional committee will now be the subject of a separate national vote.

However, as elsewhere in the “Arab Spring” revolutions, the transition to the democratic process continues to be very rocky.

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Federalists Burning Election Materials – cnn.com

In Libya, especially in the east around Benghazi, some polling stations were burnt to the ground or election material and voting papers destroyed and a helicopter carrying elections workers was shot at with heavy calibre bullets on Friday killing one of the occupants and forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing.

Armed groups opposed to the election and wanting autonomy for oil-rich eastern Libya, also surrounded and closed the oil refineries at Ras Lanouf, Brega and Ajdabiya. In a separate incident another person was killed near a polling station in Ajdabiya.

In the current election of the 200 available seats, in a system devised by the NTC, the west of Libya will have 100, 40 will come from the south and 60 from the east. Many from the east think that the parliament will therefore be too “Tripoli orientated”, a sentiment which many in Benghazi province shared under Gaddafi as well. The BBC has a video report of the election, HERE:

Hopes for an effective and solid democracy in Libya also remain on shaky ground with the recent detention for 26 days of International Criminal Court (ICC) defence lawyers for Saif Gaddafi and their leading counsel, Melinda Taylor’s assertion since her release that it will be impossible for Saif to get a fair trial in Libya. You can see a video of her statement, HERE:

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Democracy in Libya – “I voted too!”

Further worries for Libya’s progress are the huge tribal divisions and rivalries that still exist throughout the country, in some cases relating to disputes over killings or land that go back generations.

Two weeks ago, more than 100 people were killed following a clash between the Zintani and Mishasha tribes around the desert town of Misdah, both sides using weapons obtained from the former Gaddafi military. (Further background, HERE:)

TUNISIA’S NEW “DEMOCRATIC” GOVERNMENT ALREADY SEEKING TO CONTROL STATE OWNED MEDIA OUTLETS:

In Tunisia, the first of the “successful” Arab Spring revolutions, the entire membership of a commission set up to reform the country’s media, resigned this week, citing interference and censorship from the newly elected government.

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Tunisia – The Future Is In Our Hands

Kamel Labidi, the head of the The National Authority for the Reform of Information and Communication, said that the commission did “not see the point of continuing to work”.

The democratically elected majority Islamist government recently dismissed the senior executives of state-owned radio and TV channels and in another case fined the owner of a privately-run TV station for showing an animated film that the Government deemed blasphemous.

In reaction to these moves, Reporters Without Borders, the international media watchdog, said, “In the absence of clear legislation respecting international standards, senior public broadcasting personnel are being appointed in a way reminiscent of the old regime’s methods.”

The Tunisian Government has also failed to implement decrees protecting the rights of journalists and regulating new audio-visual media.

EGYPT’S ARMY, WITH VAST BUSINESS INTERESTS, IN NO HURRY TO HAND POWER TO DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRESIDENT:

In Egypt, newly elected President Mohammed Mursi, from the Muslim Brotherhood (a banned organisation for years under Mubarak), promised massive crowds in Tahrir Square, the centre of the revolution, that he would represent all Egyptians of all faiths, but whether the Army Council that effectively still controls the country will actually allow him any real power remains to be seen. The BBC has a video report of the event, HERE:

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Egypt Celebrates As New President Elected

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf) that has been running Egypt since the fall of Mubarak, delayed the announcement of the winning candidate in the election and gave itself sweeping new powers just a few days before the presidential vote.

Scarf not only dissolved the newly elected parliamentary assembly but gave itself new authority to enact legislation, control the state budget and appoint a panel that will draft the new constitution.

The army, which controls vast sections of the Egyptian economy, including manufacturing of consumer goods, food, mineral water, construction, mining, land reclamation and even tourism (while its accounts are held secretly), is clearly not going to let go of its controlling reins without another fight.

YEMEN, FOLLOWING ONE-CANDIDATE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, FACING HUGE PROBLEMS OF POVERTY, INSURGENCY AND STARVATION:

In Yemen, where another Arab Spring revolution of sorts, saw the departure of longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in February after ruling for 33 years and the unopposed election of his deputy President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, chaos still reigns, especially in the south where Al Qaeda insurgents have tried to take control.

Government forces have made gains during recent months, recapturing the insurgent held towns of Shuqra, Zinjibar and Jaar, but things came to a halt in the middle of June when a suicide bomber killed General Salem Ali Qatan who was both leading the battle in the south and moves to reform the army.

Another suicide bomber killed 100 soldiers in May while they were rehearsing for a parade for “National Unity Day” in the capital Sannaa.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/fledgeling-democracies

The Faces of Yemen’s Poor – bbc.co.uk

Apart from that Yemen has massive problems with unemployment, malnutrition, poverty, lack of water and electricity and starvation on a huge scale.

And additionally many of Saleh’s family members have yet to relinquish power over key positions in the air force, Republican Guard, Presidential Guard and security services. (Further background on Yemen, HERE:)

A new democracy?  That remains to be seen.

But at least all the above have made some sort of move forward.

BAHRAIN AND GULF STATES STILL CONTROLLED BY BACKWARD FACING FAMILY AUTOCRACIES AND NO REAL DEMOCRACY YET IN SIGHT:

In Syria the “jury is still out” on the likely result in the bloody battle between President Assad and the pro-democracy Opposition, that has so far claimed more than 16,500 lives, but recent signs seem to indicate that the rebel fighters are making progress.

In Bahrain however, where the pro-democracy movement has been demonstrating almost daily against the Government for 17 months now, things at times seem to be going backwards.

A sly, Al Khalifa family-controlled and King Hamad led autocracy, constantly bleats about how “liberal and open” it is and trumpets its “march towards democracy”.

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Bahrain – Victim of Police Beating

Yet behind closed doors, for example, people who criticise the Government get arrested without warrant and despite the installation of recording equipment in police interview rooms, detainees are routinely beaten in unfinished building lots before being taken to police stations.

Fahed Al-Sumait wrote on EA Worldview recently:

“For now, it is clear that the current political system is neither monarchical nor democratic enough to exploit the benefits of either. The lesson appears to be that a country cannot balance power effectively between an appointed cabinet and an elected parliament.

In an absolute monarchy, the king calls the shots and appoints who he wants to help him govern. By contrast, in a fully democratic system, competing ideologies vie for political dominance through various electoral systems, and the government branches function as a system of checks and balances. But …. where the systems are mixed, the executive and legislative branches are inherently locked in a power struggle.

This almost guarantees perpetual confrontation rather than some degree of symbiosis. The hybrid approach does not appear to be a formula for effective governance, but may instead be a structural defect that will continue to foster the kind of political chaos for which ……. is increasingly known.

It could be argued that the real question going forward is not how ……. will navigate through the current storm, but rather when (or if) it will be able to effectively repair its sinking ship.”

Filling in the gaps in the passage above you would see that Fahed was actually writing about Kuwait, where the elected parliament is in conflict with the upper chamber appointed by the Emir and has been suspended, but he could have just as well been writing about Bahrain.

Much the same system exists in Bahrain and throughout the Gulf area where family monarchies and sheikhdoms control their oil and gas producing fiefdoms. (Further background on Bahrain, HERE:

In my view, the “Arab Spring” revolutions will eventually reach these countries too –  modern media, communications and “an idea whose time has come” will ensure that – but when and how nobody knows.

To those fighters for democracy, human rights and freedom across the Gulf – “Sumood” (Remain Steadfast) – your time will come, history is on your side.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/fledgeling-democracies

Bahrain – Conflict Continues on a Daily Basis


Revolution In The West?

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Peter Clifford

16/3/11 Peter Clifford –

www.petercliffordonline.com:

REVOLUTION IN THE WEST?

Disaster in Japan:
Firstly, my thoughts go out to my friends and contacts in Japan, in fact all in Japan for the unbelievable series of disastrous events currently unfolding.  First an earthquake, then a mega tsunami and now a potential nuclear melt down in at least one power station.

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Tsunami Wrecks Japan - BBC

The tsunami pictures and tsunami videos emerging from Japan are horrendous, riveting and heartbreaking. It certainly puts our own personal problems into perspective.

Having visited Japan on many occasions over a number of years and even experienced a minor earthquake (it is very odd to wake up in the middle of the night in your hotel room to find everything, including the room itself swaying), I know that somehow the resilient Japanese people will rise to the occasion and their sense of order, organisation, family ties and discipline (often an obstacle to personal growth in other contexts) will get them through.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/revolution-in-the-west

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant - BBC

In an odd way it may just be the cohesive glue that binds the Japanese together once again (as it did after World War ll ) to kick start their economy which has been in the doldrums for two decades now.  As always, chaos tears up the rule books and allows new ideas, challenges and growth to be re-born.  The current disaster in Japan will be no exception.

Revolution in the West?

In my previous post Does The Western World Have a Conscience? I touched on the possibility that Western countries themselves may not be immune to increasing discontent and protest by their citizens.

In the UK recent events suggest to me that this is even more likely than I originally thought.  Firstly, it is clear that we in the UK (and much the same applies it seems to me in the US and most of Europe) have just been subjected to the biggest government confidence trick in the last 300 years since the South Sea Bubble of 1720.

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South Sea Bubble Chart 1720 - marketoracle.co.uk

Our banks, on the verge of complete collapse because they took unacceptably stupid investment risks with their depositors money, were bailed out and rescued by the tax payers.  As a result our economy is under severe strain and the UK Government (in common with many other Western Governments) has no money, existing largely on huge loans raised through Government bonds.

But even the loans are not enough.  The Government has been forced to cut back spending in other areas.  So for the taxpayer, as thanks for bailing out the banks they have been “rewarded” with increased unemployment, fewer jobs, reduced benefits, cuts in services, house repossessions, increased food and petrol costs, tax increases and a lower standard of living.  In other words a completely bum deal!

At the same time, the banks, several of whom are now partly owned by the taxpayer, have bounced back into renewed profitability and rewarded their directors and senior staff with billions of pounds in bonuses.

Not just a reasonable thank you and a pat on the bank, but obscene amounts of money and packages for some individuals totalling many millions of pounds – the same individuals in many cases whose previous actions and decisions dragged Britain and many other countries into their worst ever recession.

Additionally, there has always been a class divide in the UK between those born into and educated in privileged circumstances and the rest.  Now there is an even bigger divide between the bulk of the population and not just the privileged but controlling minority, but the moneyed classes too.

Latest statistics indicate that the very rich, despite the recession, are getting richer.  Money not only buys comfort and insulates against price and tax increases but it also provides power.

Traditionally in the UK, the poor and powerless have been the working class.  Now the well educated in the middle class income range are feeling poor and powerless too – and that, for the authorities, is where the danger lies.

An angry middle class knows how to organise and agitate and are extremely knowledgeable in using the Internet, social media and modern communication systems (as has been successfully demonstrated recently in the Arab world – see Arab World in Revolt).

The working class will be only too happy to join them.  Once they start agitating together they won’t give up until they get a result and the government is forced into a climb down and concessions.  The soundness of Western democracy may well  be truly tested.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com.revolution-in-the-west

Student Protests London 2011 - demotix.com

We have already seen some serious reaction to future increases in student tuition fees. The recent student demonstrations were large, consistent and often violent and destructive.  I believe we have seen nothing yet.

Recent expenditure cuts announced by the UK Government will result in job losses to police officers and many police support workers, health and hospital workers ( “NHS efficiency measures” are just cuts by another name), firemen and many public sector workers employed by County, District and City Councils throughout the country.

To add insult to injury the Government has just announced an end to final salary and inflation – proof pensions for public sector workers as well (though this is long overdue in my view) and it looks as though some people will have to work harder and longer in order to get a smaller pension than they would have got previously. All fuel for the fire.

Many small businesses and self – employed people like myself are also feeling the pinch.  Services that we supplied and were formerly valued necessities for keeping life on track are suddenly, in a severe recession, luxuries that people can no longer afford.

And just to annoy the majority further, many of those who are making these decisions at both a national and regional level keep telling us that we must “all share the pain”.

I doubt the 18 millionaires in Mr. Cameron’s UK coalition cabinet with a reported personal net asset worth of £50 million are feeling much economic “pain”.

I doubt whether the toffs currently running the Labour Party and the vast majority (though not all) making the same decisions at a regional level, whatever their political persuasion, are feeling the “pain” either.

I also doubt that almost any of them are checking their wallets and bank balances every time they go to buy food and petrol as many of the rest of us do now.

Simon of Sudbury:

Many years ago, when I was a young choir boy singing in the local church, one of our occasional “treats” was when the vicar unlocked the the little door in the vestry wall so that we could gaze upon the mummified head of Simon Theobald, known as Simon of Sudbury.

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Simon of Sudbury - sudburyhistorysociety.co.uk

The head is still there and this week it is to be RSI scanned at a local hospital so that a team at Dundee University can have a go at reconstructing what he actually looked like.  While the head still rests in the church, Simon’s body is entombed in Canterbury Cathedral.

The reason why this is relevant and significant here is that Simon Theobold was not only a former Archbishop of Canterbury and Chaplain to Pope Innocent Vl but rose to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1379 and became responsible, among other things, for making financial decisions for the English economy (George Osborne is the current UK Chancellor responsible for dealing with much the same problems).

In the 1340’s the Black Death, one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen, swept across Europe and depleted the UK population by an estimated one third, causing a massive shortage of labour. As a result the remaining working population had to work harder for no increased recompense.

Simon of Sudbury, as Lord Chancellor, made the mistake of increasing the Poll Tax (to help a struggling economy and to finance the government’s military adventures overseas), probably on the orders of an unaware ruling elite, for the third time in four years.

This was too much for a struggling working population and the Peasants Revolt of 1381 resulted in a march on London from several directions.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/revolution-in-the-west

Richard ll speaks to the Peasants Revolt

The outcome was an attack by the peasants on the Tower of London and the execution of Simon Theobald, the Lord Chancellor, on Tower Bridge where his head was displayed on a spike and from where it was later recovered.

There must be a warning there somewhere!  You can only push the population so far before they will react to perceived injustice – often violently.

I think the UK, and possibly other Western democracies, are in for a long, hot summer of discontent.  Time will tell if I am right or not……

Until the next time,

www.petercliffordonline.com

Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

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