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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.

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

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.

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

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:

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

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.

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

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:

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

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”.

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

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


7

Democracy and Human Rights l Update

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Peter Clifford

31/3/11 Peter Clifford –

www.petercliffordonline.com:

Democracy and Human Rights l Update

Over the last 3 months I have highlighted Democracy and Human Rights issues in the Ivory Coast, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere, so I thought it was time for an update. (See my previous post Democracy on the March)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rightsLIBYA: At the time of writing the Libya story struggles on as battles continue between the forces loyal to Gaddafi and the armed revolutionaries ranged against him. Clearly much of the world wants Gaddafi to go and many stories of human rights abuse by his troops have emerged and will continue to come out in the future.

One disturbing story this week was told by a young woman lawyer,  Iman al-Obeidi, who got through into the hotel where all the foreign journalists in Tripoli are based. She told the journalists that she had been gang – raped by 15 of Gaddafi’s troops but was quickly bundled away by officials and hotel staff before getting to tell her story in full.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Iman al-Obeid - AVAAZ.org

At first called a “prostitute” by Libyan officials it later emerged that the Libyan Government had offered her family a house and money to keep her quiet.  She has not been seen since.

UPDATE 18th May 2011: Iman al-Obeidi apparently crossed into Tunisia earlier this month in the company of some defecting Libyan army officers and has since flown to Qatar and is safe.

To give you an idea of Gaddafi’s profound understanding of the human condition, here are a couple of extracts from his famed Green Book, the philosophical basis of the “revolution” that brought him to power:

“Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally, to express his or her insanity”

“Women, like men, are human beings. This is an incontestable truth… Women are different from men in form because they are females, just as all females in the kingdom of plants and animals differ from the male of their species… According to gynaecologists women, unlike men, menstruate each month… Since men cannot be impregnated they do not experience the ailments that women do”

Yes….er…..well .!!. I think the sooner Gaddafi gives up the day job the better for all concerned in Libya, especially women!

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Gaddafi Tank destroyed

Meanwhile, do we know exactly who the opposition forces are and what are their future intentions?   “A Vision of a Democratic Libya”, just published by the Libyan Interim Transitional Council in Benghazi looks promising and there is also a useful map (though not always up to date in this fast moving situation!) on the progress of the revolution on their website too.

Moussa Koussa’s (Gaddafi’s Foreign Minister) “defection” to London is also interesting – just whose side is he on?

IVORY COAST: 11/04/11   Breaking News Update: Following overnight attacks on the heavy weapons around his compound, Laurent Gbagbo this afternoon surrendered to Ouattara’s forces and has been taken to the Golf Hotel, Ouattara’s  UN defended HQ, under arrest.

If you read my previous post Prevent War With Chocolate, you will know that the conflict in the Ivory Coast has been caused by the former president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to stand down after losing the election to his democratically elected opponent Alassane Ouattara.

AVAAZ, the pressure group, organised a campaign to get the world’s major chocolate manufacturers to, temporarily at least, boycott purchases of cocoa from the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, so that Gbagbo could not fund his army.

Clearly this has not worked as hostilities have now broken out between the two parties and their supporting groups and armed professionals are involved.

Ouattara’s New Forces have swept down from the North and taken over several towns, while Gbagbo, supported by the army has imported mercenaries from Liberia and shelled Ouattara supporters in Abidjan, the capital.  Atrocities are being reported on both sides.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

UN Struggle in the Ivory Coast

The people of the Ivory Coast have been here before, having suffered years of civil war prior to a ceasefire in 2007. UNHCR estimates that a million people have already fled their homes this time and a UN peacekeeping force of 9,000 stands by helplessly, under equipped and with no proper mandate to intervene.

Neighbouring countries such as Mali, Liberia and Ghana are being swamped with refugees and at least 800 people have already been killed since December. In the latest developments Ouattara’s New Forces have taken Yamoussoukro, a regional centre, and the key cocoa exporting port of San Pedro.  Gbagbo is left only with parts of Abidjan.

The United Nations has just past a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Gbagbo and his family until his sources of revenue dry up and he is forced to stand down.

Unfortunately this conflict does not have the high profile of Gaddafi and Libya, despite the fact that just as many civilians will suffer in the long run and another, once very prosperous country, will be wrecked.

TUNISIA: Mohamed BouaziziRemember that name. Mohamed was a  Tunisian street seller of fruit and vegetables who, sick to the teeth of corruption, harassment and humiliation by local officials and the police, set himself on fire on December 17th 2010 and sparked the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

The Revolutions Started in Tunisia

From that one act everything in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and right across the Middle East has followed and still continues.

While the interim President Fouad Mebazaa has announced the date of an election in July for representatives who will rewrite the constitution, unrest still continues and arrest warrants have been issued for the former president and his family who are believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia.

BAHRAIN: Democracy and Human Rights have been a hotly debated issue in this tiny Gulf State (100 times smaller than the Irish Republic!) since the events in Tunisia and Egypt.  Every revolution has its own particular flavour and ingredients and Bahrain is no exception.

Here there is an enormous division between the minority, ruling Sunni elite and the majority Shia population who feel dispossessed and under represented.  Median age in Bahrain is 30, while youth unemployment is almost 20%. At the same time literacy rates run at 91% – all part of the potent mix for revolution in the modern age.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Protesters in Bahrain

The root of the problems here is that almost 70% of the population is Shia Muslim, while the nearly 30% Sunni Muslim self appointed ruling class have 90% of the power and most of the wealth and virtually all of the most valuable land.

Gerrymandered electoral districts have always ensured that the Shia electorate ended up with a minority of seats in the legislative body. Women do have the vote but very few get elected.

The ruling Al – Khalifa family has been in power since 1820 and its members still hold most of the most important government positions.  Indeed,  Sheik Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifah, the uncle of the Crown Prince, has been Prime Minister of Bahrain for 40 years! (Thank God that could never happen in the UK!).

The ruling family also contains such leading lights as Sheikh Abdulrahman Mubarak Hamad Al Khalifa who, according to the London Telegraph has been taken to court in both London and Bahrain for the repayment of gambling debts owed to the betting firm Spreadex for the princely sum of £270,000.  No doubt he worked really hard to be able to gamble away such wealth.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Protesters Hold Pearl Roundabout

On February 14th 2011 the pot finally boiled over when protesters marched through the capital Manama and a month of unrest followed with more than 20 killed and 100’s wounded, many of whom declined to seek treatment as many doctors and staff at the world renowned Salmaniya Hospital, according to media reports, were threatened, arrested or prevented from treating protesters.

The protests are also embarassing for the US Navy as the island is also the home of its Fifth Fleet.

The Bahrain government’s answer to all this was to import 1,000 soldiers from its neighbour Saudi Arabia, suppress all further demonstration and to demolish the monument at the Pearl Roundabout which had been the focus of rebellion.

I doubt if any of that will solve the underlying problem, which is a pity as Bahrain has a reputation as one of the more “open minded” Gulf States.

YEMEN: What started as a protest by students has now escalated into a full scale insurrection. It has also, significantly, the support of a large number of women, in what has been until now a very conservative society.

On March 13th snipers killed 52 people and their families have since been offered money by the government to keep quiet.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Protester in Yemen

The protesters are demanding that President Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years, stands down, along with 25 members of his family – the usual cosy family arrangement exploiting the people they control. Another more sinister factor is that Al -Quaeda certainly have a presence in the country as well.

After six weeks of protest, many people want the President put on trial, especially after the fatal sniper incident.  At the moment there is stalemate – but there is certainly more to come.

EGYPT: Egypt, though coming after the revolution in Tunisia, has undoubtedly set the standard for protesters to maintain their peaceful stance and use the sheer force of numbers to promote change.

Nevertheless and estimated 685 people were killed in the revolution here and an uneasy truce remains between the protesters and what remains of the security services and police.

Police officers are slowly returning to the streets but many are unwelcome and a number of former ministers and security officials are to stand trial for killing protesters during the unrest.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

The Domino Effect

It remains to be seen whether the controlling Army Council will carry through its promises or whether it is just going through the motions in order to protect its own interests.  They can expect an angry backlash if they don’t give the people what they want.

Parliamentary elections will take place in September and the presidential election within two months after. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose  more extreme elements many fear, has said it will not field a presidential candidate.

In my previous post, I commented on democracy and human rights in relation to Egyptian Women.  I see this as the “heart” of the Arab revolution.

Unless the rights of women change, then in reality nothing changes, the Muslim world will still be locked in the past and wasting 50% of their human resource.

FOR FURTHER UPDATES ON DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY IN SAUDI ARABIA, SYRIA AND CHINA click CONTINUE ………

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Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

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