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  • Author: Omar Al-Jaffal
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: In December 2019, the Iraqi parliament approved a new electoral law following demonstrations calling for fundamental political change. However, it took over 11 months for the president to ratify it as Iraq’s political parties fought over the shape of electoral districts. This article examines the disputes that surrounded the adoption of the law and the compromises that led to diluting its potential for reform. It concludes that while the new law represents a small step in the right direction, it ultimately is insufficient to respond to the aspirations of protestors looking for an overhaul of their political representation.
  • Topic: Reform, Elections, Democracy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Laryssa Chomiak
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: At the 10-year anniversary of the Tunisian Revolution, which toppled decades of dictatorship and repositioned discussions about democracy across the Middle East and North Africa, the democratic transition in Tunisia is in flux, or rather at an impasse. On the one hand, Tunisia is celebrated as the lone democratic success story of the 2011 Arab Uprisings, based on multiple cycles of free and fair elections. On the other hand, serious domestic political agitation over the last decade, coupled with deep structural inequalities and a rise in public perceptions of corruption in government, has nearly derailed its course towards democratic consolidation and stability. Democratisation in Tunisia has hinged on the widely celebrated mechanism of consensus among political adversaries in parliament, and among key political and civil society actors. Yet, instead of achieving consensus on critical political and economic-structural reforms, compromise-based arrangements have fallen apart due to intense party infighting, regular resignations of governments, and enormous public pressure resulting from a stagnating economy and lack of vision for comprehensive and equitable economic reform. The effect has been sustained infighting over economic and social policy, which in turn has resulted in diminishing public trust in political parties and new democratic institutions, an all-time low level of satisfaction with the government’s performance and a significant rise in contentious politics, particularly between 2019 and 2021. The proliferation of micro-parties (209 registered political parties for a population of 11.8 million) has resulted in confusion among the electorate, while the economic reality of a suffocating international debt crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has rendered levels of public trust in government to an all-time low.
  • Topic: Reform, Democracy, Arab Spring, Revolution, Transition
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Nikola Gjorshoski, Goran Ilik
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Research and European Studies (IRES)
  • Abstract: The question of the correlation between Islam, political Islam, and liberal democracy has so far been the most exposed topic in exploring the democratic capacity of political Islam and Islamic societies in general. What is particularly intriguing about the relationship between political Islam and liberal democracy is the fact of its westernized triviality that has received a pejorative tone in Islamic political circles. Simplified, the triviality of liberal democracy for the Islamic political campus implies imposing a model of democracy that cannot be fully compatible with the original Muslim notion of society and government. Hence, the following paper analyzes exactly the relations of political Islam to specific inherent categories of liberal democracy such as the rule of law, representative government, the separation of powers, and secularism as diferenta specifica of liberal western democratic discourse. Through the methods of induction and deduction, the author will illustrate how appropriate tangent or divergence is illustrated and how this is reflected in the general ideological positioning of political Islam towards liberal democracy in Muslim countries through an axiological and praxeological perspective.
  • Topic: Democracy, Rule of Law, Islamism, Liberalism, Secularism, Sharia
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Global Focus
  • Author: Nimrod Goren, Nitzan Horowitz, Ronen Hoffman, Yohanan Plesner, Zehava Galon, Nadav Tamir, Ofer Shelah, Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Zouheir Bahloul, Elie Podeh, Einat Levi, Merav Michaeli
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The Mitvim Institute’s second annual conference took place in Tel Aviv on December 30, 2018. The conference explored alternative directions for Israeli foreign policy towards the April 2019 general elections. In recent years, Mitvim has formulated a series of guiding principles for a new Israeli foreign policy paradigm – a pro-peace, multi-regional, internationalist, modern and inclusive foreign policy. The conference sought to translate these principles into concrete policy directions, which will enable Israel to improve its foreign policy, increase its regional belonging in the Middle East and Europe, and make progress towards peace with the Palestinians. The conference featured Members of Knesset (MKs) Ofer Shelah and Merav Michaeli, Dr. Nimrod Goren, Dr. Ronen Hoffman, Zehava Galon, Nadav Tamir, Yohanan Plesner, Dr. Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Zouheir Bahloul, Prof. Elie Podeh, and Einat Levi. It was moderated by Nitzan Horowitz and Merav Kahana-Dagan of Mitvim. The conference was held in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and can be watched (in Hebrew) on Mitvim’s YouTube channel.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government, National Security, Diaspora, Democracy, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, European Union
  • Author: Dan Miodownik, Lior Lehrs, Benny Miller, Piki Ish-Shalom, Noa Landau, Yigal Palmor, Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Hermann, Arthur Koll, Roee Kibrik, Daniel Shek, Ksenia Svetlova, Ehud Eiran, Nadav Tamir, Stav Shafir, Aida Touma-Sliman, Zvi Hauser
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: On 11 June 2019, the Mitvim Institute and the Davis Institute held a conference at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on democracy and foreign policy in Israel. It included sessions on democracy, international relations and the challenges to the liberal world order; the erosion of democracy in Israel and its impact on foreign relations; and the democracy component in Israel’s relations with surrounding regions. Speakers included scholars, former diplomats, activists, journalists and politicians. This document sums up the main points of the conference.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Anne van der Wolff
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Many of the Islamic State associated women and children now live in camps inside Iraq and are denied identity cards, including birth and death certificates. These practices violate national and international laws and are likely to contribute to future radicalisation and renewed violent extremism. Iraq must develop clear policies in line with its democratic constitution.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Radicalization, Democracy, Islamic State, Identities
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Pnina Sharvit Baruch
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Amid the coalition negotiations underway in Israel there is a heated debate over various proposals regarding significant changes to the legal oversight of governmental and parliamentary work. Remarkable throughout the debate of these proposals is the lack of regard to their impact on the preservation and promotion of the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and instead, there is a worrisome focus on political and personal motives. Against this background, it is possible to propose several recommendations. First, in the current debate, the Court is accused of "stealing democracy" and of being a political institution with a blatantly left wing agenda. This incorrect premise, which undermines the ability to conduct a public debate in constructive fashion and erodes the legitimacy of the Court and the public's faith in the Court, must be reversed. Second, there is room for discussion on appropriate constitutional changes. Democratic countries around the world have differing successful constitutional structures, and there is no "one right answer." Yet any future change must be carried out through a focused discussion that incorporates all relevant parties, including politicians, judges, and academics with expertise in the field. Finally, whatever the eventual constitutional changes, they must not undermine the basic principles of the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the power of the Court to practice effective oversight of the government. These are essential building blocks for proper democratic rule.
  • Topic: Governance, Democracy, Constitution, Secularism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Bassma Kodmani
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Before the Syrian uprising morphed into a full-scale war, Syria was probably the most authoritarian regime in the Arab region, unequalled in the scale of its repressive practices except by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Authoritarianism is hardly compatible with decentralization. An authoritarian government’s key concern is to spread the tentacles of its surveillance apparatus across all regions in order to exert full control over the lives of the citizens. A process of decentralization – in which power is genuinely devolved – is practically impossible, therefore, in an authoritarian system of governance. Yet equating centralization with authoritarianism and decentralization with democracy is an assertion that deserves discussion. Some democracies have functioned in a highly centralized manner. Perhaps, one of the best-known examples is France (on which the Syrian state was modelled) that remained highly centralized since the early days of the state formation almost 1000 years ago. The French revolution of 1789 upheld freedom and equality and announced a democratic system. The very idea of decentralization was rejected at the time in the name of equality understood as uniformity. Yet even France found it necessary to engage in some form of decentralization. Since the early 1980s, it engaged in a process of decentralization, mainly for administrative and financial efficiency. Although it continued to consider identity politics as dangerous for the unity of the nation, it was forced to concede to one particular identity-driven demand, that of the Corsicans, by designing a special status for the island.1 And decentralized systems do not necessarily produce democratic or more representative systems. Mexico is a case in point. Although it was always a federation, its political system remained a one-party rule for some seventy years before it transitioned to democracy in the early 2000s. Decentralization and democracy are, therefore, not inherently inseparable. However, a centralized system, even if democratic, inevitably reduces and often denies the specific identity of certain groups within society. It might operate in a democratic manner when national identity is homogeneous, but the world is composed of states where homogeneity is an exception. In diverse societies such as those of the Middle Eastern countries, centralization together with the demagogic discourse of authoritarian regimes using national cohesion as a pretext and brandishing foreign interference as a permanent threat, have served to deny diversity and basic rights of both individual citizens and specific communities. Syrian society faces a historic challenge and possibly an existential one: it needs to craft a model of decentralization as part of a new social contract while its national institutions are all but failing and its regional environment challenges the integrity of its territory and its sovereignty. Given the uncertainty shrouding the future of Syria, the paper is organized in two parts. The first lays out the discussion about decentralization based on the current reality of the Syrian regime in a scenario in which it regains control after having lived through nine years of gradual foundering of state institutions. The second part considers options for a new decentralized order in a context of democratic political transition. This is not to say that the first option is viable while the second is an ideal order for a fictitious future. On the contrary, the paper shows that the destruction of state institutions is a reality and a consequence of the conflict, that violence and other forms of resistance will continue, and that peace cannot be brought to the country under the existing political system. The second option is, therefore, a necessity which Syrians will need to define with the support of the international community. The paper lays out the process with concrete steps for achieving democratic decentralization.
  • Topic: Fragile/Failed State, Democracy, Decentralization , Regionalism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Damascus
  • Author: Osamah Al-Rawhani
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Local governance has been viewed by academics, analysts and some political leaders in Yemen as a panacea to redress the excessive control of the central government, bring the state closer to its citizens and provide those citizens with socio-economic and political stability. Federalism, as a form of local governance, was adopted at the end of the National Dialogue Conference in 2013-2014, although there were disagreements over the number of regions and the federal map. It was posited as a viable vehicle for power-sharing and decentralization in Yemen and is considered a likely outcome after the conflict. However, there are several prerequisites for the effective devolution of power that are not yet in place in Yemen, most prominently the existence of strong consolidated central institutions. In short: it is a mistake to view federalism as a means of achieving stability, rather than a future goal once stability has been achieved.
  • Topic: Democracy, State Formation, Decentralization , Federalism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Sana'a
  • Author: Joshua Krasna
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Much ink has been and is being spilt regarding whether or not current developments in Algeria and Sudan – the second and third most populous Arab states after Egypt – constitute the Second Wave of the “Arab Spring”. But what is clear is that the second and succeeding waves of Arab Uprisings will not look the same as that of 2011.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Democracy, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Middle East, Algeria, Egypt
  • Author: Anthony H Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Iraqi election in May 2018 has both highlighted Iraq's political uncertainties and the security challenges the United States now faces in Iraq and the Middle East. What initially appeared to be a relative honest election gradually emerged to have involved massive potential fraud, and forced a manual recount of the results of a failed electronic voting system. Its results have cast Iraq's ability to form an effective post-ISIS government into serious doubt, along with its ability to carry our follow-up provincial and local elections in October. At the same time, even the initial results of the election raised serious concerns over the level of future U.S. confrontation with Iran. The United States faced grave uncertainties regarding Iran's influence in Iraq even when it seemed that Iraq's existing Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, was likely to win the election. The election's uncertain results, and U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement, now virtually ensure that a far more intense struggle for influence will take place in Iraq and the rest of the region.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, ISIS, Election watch, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Kressen Thyen
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Institute of Global and Area Studies
  • Abstract: In the Middle East and North Africa, EU foreign policy has tended to prioritise regime stability over democratisation. Existing research has argued that this could create anti‐European sentiment in the respective populations. However, empirical evidence on the relationship between the EU’s stance towards regime change and citizen attitudes remains rare. Focusing on Morocco and Egypt, this study uses a mixed‐methods approach, combining qualitative case studies with original survey data to examine whether the EU’s divergent responses to the 2011 uprisings in these two countries are mirrored in regime opponents’ support for EU cooperation.
  • Topic: Social Movement, European Union, Democracy, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East, Egypt, Morocco
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Foundation for Electoral Systems
  • Abstract: A new Lebanese government was established in December 2016 and enacted a new election law in 2017. The new law will be in force for parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on May 6, 2018, the first since June 2009. The law’s passage is a significant achievement when considering the fragmented, complex and shifting nature of Lebanon’s politics, which is dominated by two major political and electoral alliances and overlaid by regional rivalries. The new law, however, is not likely to change the political landscape or bring an end to confessionalism in politics, which remains the overall goal in the country’s Constitution. To help you understand this important electoral law, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) provides a briefing paper on Lebanon’s 2017 Parliamentary Election Law. The paper provides an analysis of the new election law in comparison to the 2008 election law.
  • Topic: Law, Elections, Democracy, Political Parties
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Ever since Saddam’s regime was toppled in 2003, Iraq has three competitive parliamentary elections in 2005, 2010 and 2014. In all of these, pre-election alliance building and post-election coalition building processes were fairly predictable given the confessional nature of Iraq’s political system. Essentially, the system is centered on a politically conventional power-sharing arrangement among the country’s three main ethno-sectarian powerhouses: Shi’ite Arab Muslims, Sunni Arab Muslims, and the Kurds. This arrangement has prompted small political parties to forge alliances with these confessional powerhouses. This time round, this trend is likely to continue in the upcoming elections scheduled on 12 May 2018, but perhaps on a smaller scale. What gravitates political entities are political expediency and nationalist sentiments. These two factors seem to be shaping and forming some alliances such as between secular and civil-minded parties, the Shiite Sadrist movement via Hizb Istaqama (the Integrity Party), and the Iraqi Communist party. On 22 January 2018, Iraqi legislators ratified a decision to hold much-debated anticipated parliamentary elections on 12 May 2018, thereby ending the stalemate by some lawmakers to postpone it. Iraq is at a crossroads, and much of what is at stake will depend on which of the 27 registered electoral alliances emerge as winners. The large number of alliances suggests that political entities are aware of the competitive advantages inherent to forming these, versus running independently. Indeed, because of Iraq’s particular parliamentarian arrangement, the 24 million eligible voters in the 18 national electoral districts, representing the country’s 18 governorates, will not be electing the next prime minister – they will, instead, be picking an electoral alliance, which will engage in post-election coalition building negotiations to nominate the prime minister and form the next government. While it is still premature to forecast the ultimate composition of the next government, it is most likely to be led by one of four viable options: Eitilaf al-Nasr (Victory Alliance) led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi; Eitilaf al-Wataniya (National Alliance) led by former Prime Minister Ayad Alawi; Eitilaf Dawlat al-Qanun (State of the Law Alliance) led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; and Tahaluf al-Fatah (Conquest Alliance) led by al-Hashd al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Units) commander Hadi al-Ameri. However, given the unpopularity of Iraq’s political class, no single alliance is expected to win a majority of parliamentary seats, forcing the formation of a grand-coalition government. This, nevertheless, may help build broad-based support and legitimacy given Iraq’s oversized economic, security, and political challenges. Furthermore, the next election is expected to maintain the status quo due to the existence of potent structural forces inspired by political and electoral confessionalism. However, and encouragingly, the status quo may prove ephemeral in the face of internal divisions within the traditional confessional centers of power, the rising popular discontent with the quality of the existing democratic system and the limited progress it has made over the past fifteen years. It would be safe to say that an inclusive government can increase popular support, reduce the likelihood of ethno-sectarian civil war, minimise the influence of external powers, and bolster the nation’s attractiveness to foreign investors. In the long term, Iraq needs a government that is ambitiously reformist to transform the state’s political, electoral, and economic systems.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nationalism, Religion, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Gal Perl Finkel, Gilead Sher
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The Knesset has recently amended the “Basic Law: The Government,” with respect to "authority to declare war or conduct a significant military operation." Under the previous legislation, this authority was given to the government, but the new law grants the authority to the Ministerial Committee for National Security (the Security Cabinet). However, the final version of the new law goes even further, and concludes: "Under extreme circumstances and for reasons that will be noted…the prime minister and the minister of defense are authorized to make the decision in a more restricted legal quorum." Such a law has almost no equivalent in Western democracies. It lacks the checks and balances essential to a democratic regime and is bound to undermine the principle that war is an act requiring maximum domestic and international legitimacy. Yet in view of the new legislation, the Security Cabinet's work should be improved so that it will be fully familiar with the strategic matters on the agenda. In addition, both for the sake of checks and balances and the prevention of an overconcentration of authority in the hands of individuals and so that more than two elected representatives of the people bear responsibility for cardinal policy measure such as war and peace, at least the entire Security Cabinet should participate in the decision. The tactical decisions can and should be made in restricted forums, but it is best for such a momentous decision as a declaration of war to be taken in a broad forum that bears the burden of the responsibility.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Democracy, Conflict, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Ofir Winter, Khander Sawaed
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: As expected, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was reelected Egyptian president in late March 2018, this time, with 97.08 percent of the vote. More than affording an electoral mandate, the recent elections highlighted the incumbent president's challenge of legitimacy, which is reflected in two spheres. The first is the exacerbation of the internal splits within the ruling military establishment. The second is growing alienation between the ruling establishment and the general Egyptian public and civilian elements. The precarious state of the regime's legitimacy is a cause for regional and international concern. It may detract from the regime's ability to carry out the next stages of the economic reform sponsored by the International Monetary Fund, and will complicate efforts to obtain the cooperation in the war against terrorism by the local civilian population in the Sinai Peninsula. In the medium and long terms, the enhanced internal friction in the military and tension between the ruling establishment and civilian forces may jeopardize the country's stability. The legitimacy challenge also affects Egypt's relations with Israel. The regime needs broad public legitimacy in order to incur political risks, such as controversial decisions in favor of bilateral or regional cooperation with Israel. In addition, a regime with unsteady legitimacy might be tempted to adopt a populist anti-Israel line in order to strengthen its public standing. At the same time, the political situation in Egypt also provides an opportunity for increasing bilateral cooperation with Israel in areas contributing to the regime's legitimacy: the economy, security, energy, water, agriculture, and tourism.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Legitimacy, IMF
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Israel, Egypt
  • Author: Nayla Moussa
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: On 6 May 2018, Lebanon had its first legislative elections in nine years. But what was celebrated as a “victory for democracy” may have been merely a game of musical chairs between existing political actors. The elections may even be seen as a setback, with the return of major figures from the era under Syrian presence. For Lebanon, simply holding the elections – considered routine in most democracies – was seen as a victory. Parliament had extended its mandate three times since the last elections in 2009. Many obstacles had prevented the elections from taking place including the fragile security balance; the war in Syria and its polarization of Lebanese politics support for the Assad regime; the direct involvement of Hezbollah in Syria; and finally, a lack of consensus between major political parties and figures on a new electoral law. This last issue was the most crucial as the 2018 law emerged as a mix of elements designed to please all parties. Its key tenets were proportional representation and a division of electoral districts that satisfied most political actors. This paper explores the lessons learned from these elections and analyzes specific points such as the electoral law, political debate, and post-election perspectives.
  • Topic: Religion, Social Movement, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, Beirut
  • Author: Mohamed Wazif
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The spectacular political rise of Islamist forces in several Arab countries over the past few years was one of the outcomes of the Arab spring, which included a massive protest movement in Morocco in 2011. This rise, accompanied by several radical and extremist manifestations, raised concerns among civil and political actors about power-sharing and the future of democracy and human rights at this pivotal stage in the history of a people who had recently come to reject many forms of tyranny and oppression. A history of confrontations between Islamists and human rights activists intensified these concerns. This paper examines the relationship between Morocco’s Islamists and the human rights movement through the most prominent historical milestones and controversies. It illustrates the dynamics and evolution of how Islamists operated within the human rights discourse from positions within government or in civil society organizations.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Social Movement, Democracy, Arab Spring
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Morocco, Rabat
  • Author: David M. Weinberg
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Investment in eastern Jerusalem is the core of sovereign political action that will keep Jerusalem whole and make it prosperous for all.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, Territorial Disputes, Democracy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem
  • Author: Kristin McKie
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kellogg Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Since presidential term limits were (re)adopted into many constitutions during the third wave of democratization, 207 presidents across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia have reached the end of their terms in office. Of these, 30% have attempted to contravene term limits whereas 70% have stepped down in compliance with tenure rules. Furthermore, of the presidents who have attempted to alter tenure restrictions, some have succeeded in fully abolishing term limits, others have only managed a one-term extension, while a minority have failed in their bids to secure any additional terms in office. What explains these divergent trajectories? On the basis of a series of statistical analyses, I argue that trends in electoral competition over time are the best predictor of the range of term limit contravention outcomes across the board, with the least competitive elections permitting full term limit abolition and the most competitive elections saving off attempts at altering executive tenure rules. Furthermore, results show that failed contravention attempts are true borderline cases, rather than instances gross miscalculations of success by the president and her party, in that they feature less competitive elections than non-attempt cases but more competitive elections than successful contravention cases. These findings suggest a linkage between political uncertainty and constitutional stability more generally.
  • Topic: Democratization, Democracy, Institutions, Political Parties
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America
  • Author: Avner Cohen, Brandon Mok
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
  • Abstract: The report presents a set of comparative raw data on the question of how four Western democratic nuclear-weapon states— the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Israel—handle the essential tension between nuclear weapons (which require secrecy) and liberal democracy. The initial intent of this work was to assist Dr. Cohen in his preparations for an unprecedented hearing at the Israeli High Court of Justice in September 2017, whereby the Court would hear a petition, signed by over 100 Israeli citizens, calling for regulation and oversight of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. The petitioners cited the legal lacuna under which Israel’s nuclear activities operate, devoid of oversight and beyond the realm of law, in violation of fundamental democratic principles. In particular, the study assesses the comprehensiveness—the breadth and depth—of the legislative, regulatory, scientific, and policy mechanisms that each of these four democratic states have created to govern its nuclear affairs in the following categories or parameters: legislation, organizations (directly responsible for either civilian and military applications of nuclear materials or both), regulation, oversight, secrecy, and policy making. Such material has never before been publicly available in a condensed form in one location, making this study of use to anyone interested in the problem of governing the atom. It will be updated as structures and policy change.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Military Affairs, Democracy, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, Israel, France, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This report concerns the political and security situation in the district of Shingal after the summer of 2014. Specifically, it focuses on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) presence in the area. In August 2014, the Peshmerga forces hastily withdrew from Shingal district due to the IS (Islamic State) advance. The Yazidi population of the district was then exposed to atrocities at the hands of IS. These events damaged trust between the Yazidi population and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government). The PKK entered the stage in Shingal district and aided Yazidis at the onset of IS’ advance. It capitalised on its image of being the saviour of Yazidis and promptly began to build governance and armed structures in the district. The area has thus become an arena of competition between the KRG (especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party– KDP) and Baghdad. PKK’s increasing presence challenges the KDP’s strong influence in the district. The ongoing power struggle in Shingal district also takes place against a background of wider regional competition. The report utilises Zachariah Mampilly’s theoretical framework in order to analyse the effectiveness of rebel governance. It is argued that the model used for PKK-linked political and armed structures in Shingal district follows the PKK’s governance model as it is established in PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan’s ideological works and is currently in place in Rojava, run by PKK-affiliated actors. Furthermore, building upon Anna Arjona’s typology of rebel governments, it is asserted that the PKK-linked governance in Shingal district has become, since the summer of 2014, increasingly effective and entrenched despite certain shortcomings stemming mainly from lack of resources to satisfy all the needs of the population. Ultimately, the PKK-linked civilian governance structures represented by the Self-Administration Council and the armed structures of the Sinjar Protection Units find fertile ground among the Yazidi population for their project of self-administration and self-defence for Yazidis in Shingal district. The PKK-linked forces’ influence goes beyond a mere military presence and thus poses a new reality in which the PKK-linked forces are indeed actors which must be taken into consideration in future political arrangements in Shingal district. While outlining the competing interests in the district of Shingal, the paper provides a set of recommendations to the PKK, the PKK-linked actors in the district, the KRG, the GoI, Turkey, and the US with an aim of promoting stabilisation and the well-being of the local population. The best case scenario would include at least partial demilitarisation of the situation in the district while shifting the competition for the population between the GoI, the PKK-linked forces and the KRG into a non-violent domain, instead focusing on trying to win the hearts and minds of the population. Competition within the scope of Iraqi law with an aim of generating as much genuine popular support as possible in the upcoming elections in Iraq is the way forward. In the long-term, the PKK-linked forces should engage in democratic electoral competition with the KRG and aim for integration into governance and administrative structures as per Iraqi law. Both sides could then work on improving their standing electorally.
  • Topic: Governance, Democracy, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Yasir Kuoti
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: On 25 September 2017, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a historic, if contentious, referendum in the three Kurdistan Region’s provinces (Erbil, Duhok, and Sulimanyiah) and disputed territories, including Kirkuk. Notwithstanding the moral grounds for Kurdish self-determination, and despite the Kurds having voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence, the unilateral move was met with strong backlash form varied opponents, for varied reasons. The Iraqi government, parliament and Supreme Court in Baghdad come out against the referendum calling it “illegitimate,” “unconstitutional,” “destabilizing” and “untimely”, as did Turkey, Iran, many western countries and international institutions including the United Nations and European Union. In a retaliatory response, Baghdad moved to impose a host of punitive measures against the KRG. These included the decision by the civil aviation authority of Iraq to halt international flights to and from Erbil and Sulimanyiah airports on September 29, 2017. Now a month into the referendum, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, a perceived moderate Shiite, continues to face a mounting pressure from Iraq’s parliament and political parties to take tougher measures against the KRG. In exact, the issue of disputed territories took a center stage as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), backed by the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU), moved to reinstitute federal authority in Kurdish-held areas in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahddin, and Diyala governorates. The referendum and post-referendum events grew fast over the past few weeks, and it is difficult to undo them for a host of legal and political considerations. Playing the blame game now is not only frustrating, but also impeding to progress. Therefore, it is more constructive that Baghdad and Erbil take steps to calm down emotions and pave the path for meaningful dialogue. Irrespective of what Baghdad leaders think of the referendum or its legality, they cannot take away from the fact that millions of Kurds cast their votes in favor of independence. The Kurds have legitimate fears about the sectarian direction in which the country is heading, a view that is also shared by non-Kurdish Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs and many Shiite Arabs, including Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Such fears need to be acknowledged and dealt with, not dismissed. Baghdad should also take measures to improve communications with the KRG, to mitigate future fears by Kurds. Certainly, a drive behind the timing of the referendum was the fear, real or perceived, by some Kurds that with the defeat of IS, Baghdad will turn focus to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to deprive it of its gains. Erbil must recognize that Iraq’s constitution of 2005, which Kurdish voters have largely backed, gave a broad autonomy to Kurdistan Region and unequivocally affirmed that federal authorities have the constitutional duty to “preserve the unity [and] integrity…of Iraq and its federal democratic system.” Kurdish leaders, and many Iraqis too, have issues with the constitution and the political process it stipulated, but in the absence of a better framework, it remains the law of the land. Erbil should also take a leading role in mitigating the fallout from the referendum. The KRG leaders should accept that the referendum has backfired where the best outcome, for the short term at least, is negotiations with Baghdad for a democratic and federal Iraq. Therefore, the KRG might choose to publically demand the implementation of Iraqi constitution. This does not take away from the strategic and aspirational value of the referendum, which is expedient for pushing Kurdish demands over disputed areas, broader autonomy, and other issues. Meanwhile, the KRG leadership would benefit form focusing on its internal challenges including the need to address intra-Kurdish rivalries among political parties, empowering institutions, strengthening the rule of law, and initiating economic reforms. Such political and economic reforms will improve KRG’s negotiating positions with Baghdad. The referendum has given rise to unprecedented political and military tensions between the federal government of Iraq and the KRG. With the mobilization of the ISF, backed by the PMUs, to reclaim federal control over disputed territories, the situation risks igniting an armed confrontation between the two sides in one disputed area or another, especially if Baghdad decides to swing the pendulum too far. Given these developments, the only sensible way forward is for Baghdad and Erbil to make negotiations a priority. It is essential that talks focus not only on procedural and technical issues such as budget, oil sales, and fair distribution of resources, but, more importantly, on the primary issue that divided Baghdad and Erbil and helped trigger the referendum: corruption and sectarianism in the Iraqi state. Iraq’s political system is increasingly turning into an ethno-sectarian battle, which has been the feature of post-2003 Iraq except that it has become much more abrasive in recent years. Political parties throughout Iraq are structuring themselves to whip up sectarian and ethnic divisions to varying extents of extremism. Under the system, each party has become associated with its identity where there is little to no space to an overarching Iraqi national identity. Parties have become accustomed to not only make their constituents polarized along ethnic and sectarian lines, but also make them fearful of fellow countrymen. This state of affairs calls for an urgent action; else cycles of disputes and violence are likely to resurface. Interestingly, the fallout from the referendum has also provided opportunities for dialogue between the KRG and Baghdad. Indeed, the KRG Cabinet in its meeting of 19 October reemphasized the need for negotiations without pre-conditions and that the KRG is ready for dialogue. If and when reconciliations efforts take place, it is critical they address revising the constitution and structure of government. Negotiations are far better when they are outcome-driven with defined timelines, addressing the need for a non-sectarian and non-divisive arrangement. Prime Minister Abadi must seize on his successes to steer the country’s ship toward a unified vision that can bring about the will to address problems rooted in the political system, which feeds on ethno-sectarian divisions and is the greatest barrier to development. The international community, particularly the United States, has historic opportunities to positively influence the future of Iraq by articulating a peaceful settlement to the crisis and encouraging meaningful negotiations between Baghdad and the KRG. Furthermore, the U.S. should promote dialogue within the major political parties in the KRI while leveraging its influence to redirect attention toward liberating remaining IS strongholds in western Iraq. The U.S is also encouraged to provide Iraq with legal and technical assistance needed to launch reforms and national reconciliations initiatives. The U.S and Iraqi leaders need to work together to dispel fears held by minorities, encouraging them to integrate into a better version of federal and democratic Iraq. Being part of the coalition government in Baghdad, Kurds have a key role to play in making progress toward national reconciliations and reforms.
  • Topic: Self Determination, Democracy, Independence, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Peter Seeberg, Musa Shteiwi
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic Studies (CSS)
  • Abstract: Peter Seeberg & Musa Shteiwi wrote an article on the "European Narratives on the "Arab Spring" – From Democracy to Security". The article discusses the EU’s reaction to the developments in the MENA-region in the period 2011-14. Initially relatively optimistic metaphors like ‘the Arab Spring’ or ‘the Democratic Tsunami’ were part of the media-comments from Western leaders, but three years. later the situation in the region seems to have changed significantly and consequently the narrative in the EU has switched from a predominantly pro-‘Arab Spring’ discourse to a focus on security aspects in a broad sense and, especially concerning the situation in Syria (to some degree also Lebanon and Libya), a focus on counter-terrorism. The article are concluding remarks by Peter Seeberg and Musa Shteiwi from a workshop on EU-Middle Eastern relations held at the Center for Strategic Studies in Amman in May 2013. Dr. Musa Shteiwi is the director of the Center for Strategic Studies, University of Jordan. Peter Seeberg is the director of the Center for Contemporary Middle East Studies in the University of Southern Denmark.
  • Topic: Security, European Union, Counter-terrorism, Democracy, Arab Spring
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: M. Murat Erdoğan
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: BILGESAM (Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies)
  • Abstract: The Arab spring could be seen as an integral part of a world in transformation. The technology and information revolutions and interconnectedness between cultures make it impossible for tyrants to rule for lifetime while subjugating the people to servitude with no chance for their freedom. Despite the unique characteristics of each country, the common theme of the protests in the Arab world has been largely shaped by the continuing economic inequality and rising social injustices. The Arab youth charge the authoritarian governments as the main source of their socioeconomic problems, lack of freedoms, and injustices and, desire change in the current political systems. Syria has a central position connecting the Arab states to Turkey. As a pioneering state, Turkey needs a democratic Syria to contribute to the transformation of the Arab world. It could be said that the fall of Assad regime and the establishment of a democratic government in Syria can contribute to Turkey’s initiatives for the transformation and regional integration in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Democratization, Democracy, Syrian War, Crisis Management, Integration
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Youngjin Kim
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: Since the fall of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, the outbreak of the “Arab Spring” has reasserted the universality of democracy. The question then of whether a “Jasmine Revolution” would occur in China has drawn the attention of foreign and domestic observers as well as raised the concern of the Chinese government. Today, even at the official level, the scope of debate on so called “Western-style” democracy is very limited in China regardless of the political standing of any politician whether conservative or progressive. It would be impossible to imagine in this case that there could be any debate over democracy that would lead to sweeping political reforms in the Chinese Communist Party. While on the other end of the political spectrum, a grass roots movement for democracy is also unlikely to develop. Most of the core figures involved in the democratic movement are either in exile overseas, under heavy restrictions at home, or have lost their momentum as time has passed by. Furthermore, possibly the greatest obstacle to any democratization movement in China is the reluctance of the middle-class. While often considered as a powerful driver for democratization in the rest of the world, it would be difficult to expect them to play the same role in China. Simply, the middle-class is the greatest beneficiaries of state-led economic growth and is unlikely to take part in any rapid political transformation. In this regard, the Chinese middle-class is far more conservative than that of any other country. To what extent then would a “Jasmine Revolution” be possible? There are four possible scenarios on the prospect for democratization in China. First, continued high economic growth is destined to bring about democratization. From the perspective of functionalism, improved standards of living as well as expansion of higher education, media, and an increasing consciousness of human rights will make democratization feasible within a certain period. However, such a viewpoint has some limits in that it blindly applies the experiences of the West and a few countries in East Asia to China without any consideration for its distinct history and social conditions. Second, there is the possibility for democratization due to impending social challenges mounting in China. In other words, if a combination of social problems builds up, the Chinese government would be unable to manage them under in its current repressive way. In this situation, the government would have to introduce democratic measures, such as freedom of speech and direct elections, to a substantial extent. Such a prospect though is unlikely to happen in the near future since high economic growth, increases in consumer expenditure, and the elevation of China’s international status will continue for a while, unless a major economic crisis were to occur in China or in neighboring countries. Even if such a crisis were to occur and the Chinese government implements measures for political reform, a soft-landing through democratization would not be guaranteed. Rather, it is highly probable that the unresolved problems would weaken the political control of the government and lead to political disorder. Third, a kind of flexible authoritarianism may be sustained for a long time. China has secured its legitimacy among the population through rapid economic growth, social welfare, administrative efficiency, and an assertive foreign policy. Simultaneously, it has maintained the stability of its system through strict control, systematization, and mass mobilization. Such a flexible authoritarian government is considered a prime alternative to Western-style democracy by the Chinese leadership and pro-government scholars. From such a viewpoint, it would seem unlikely to expect democratization in China for the time being. Lastly, there is a possibility that China would experience political chaos and division, a scenario that covers neither gradual democratization nor flexible authoritarianism. Authoritarian governments unable to actively promote reforms in the political system often fail to meet the social demands which have accumulated as marketization expands. Continued corruption and incompetence in the government leads to public dissatisfaction and might bring about the collapse of the system as in Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe, countries had implemented ‘shock therapy’ solutions to fix the problems of the socialist system. However, such rapid changes, in some cases, caused severe chaos rather than bring about a smooth transition to democracy. This hard landing scenario cannot be excluded in regarding the future of democratization in China. From a realistic perspective, even though China cannot avert the flow of democratization in the end, top-down democratization or limited democratic reform led by the Chinese Communist Party is more likely as Chinese civil society has yet to fully mature. Nevertheless, as political reforms would weaken the Chinese Communist Party and increase social instability, top-down democratization is likely to be restricted. And this limited reform might even fail to solve social problems ahead. In this case where there is no alternative social force for the Communist Party and its leadership, the direction for the development of Chinese politics will be unpredictable and could bring about unexpected results. China will therefore go through a difficult transition period due to intricate conflicts among domestic political forces.■
  • Topic: Social Movement, Democracy, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Paula A. Newberg
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: MIT Center for International Studies
  • Abstract: After the kind of year that no country ever wants, with its government in crisis, repression replacing even the most remote notion of good government, political assassination, and terror stand- ing in the wings, Pakistan elected a new parliament in February. Led initially by a coalition of three parties previously deemed out- casts by President Pervez Musharraf, its cabinet of familiar political faces quickly agreed in principle, and at least in public, on a compel- ling and daunting political agenda. It reversed some emergency rul- ings, negotiated a hasty truce with insurgents living in the conten- tious tribal agency of Waziristan—and then broke down on divisive issues left to them by Musharraf. Domestic politics and foreign policy alike are now fair game for ambitious politicians long removed from power. This isn’t the first time that civilians have inherited the detritus of a mili- tary-led state, and past success has been elusive at best. Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gillani therefore faces not only the problems created by Musharraf ’s national security state, but also the accumulation of decades of mangled constitutions, mixed civil-military law, weakened state institutions and fragmented political parties. Today’s refreshing, if cautious good will nonetheless reflects a political order that was fragile and complex before Musharraf ’s 1999 coup d’etat, and remains so now. The recent blur of pronouncements, plans and policies reflects this history as it touches on Pakistan’s perennially sensitive topics: jumbled electoral rules, imbalances between provincial powers and central government authority, political corruptions long deemed acceptable, and a testy relationship between parliament and the president. Parliament is understandably keen to replace the opacity of Musharraf ’s tenure with a transparency that matches Pakistan’s avid, 21st century media, and in so doing, cement the coalition’s public image.
  • Topic: Governance, Democracy, Leadership, Political Crisis
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Middle East
  • Author: Barry R. Posen
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: MIT Center for International Studies
  • Abstract: President Bush is renewing his efforts to create an Iraq that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and is throwing more resources at the project. The first priority must be governance, however, as administration and defense cannot happen without a functioning government. And government cannot function without a legitimate, broad-based, political consensus. Such a consensus has eluded Iraqis since March 2003, and the President’s new strategy includes no political program to create such a consensus. Instead, he counts on creating a coalition of existing “moderates,” which do not exist, as the intense violence within Iraq clearly demonstrates. Thus, the President’s troop increases, economic assistance, and intensified train- ing will likely prove futile.
  • Topic: Imperialism, Democracy, State Building, Iraq War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, North America