Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday is cacti blogging? Did I get that right? (photo by Amanda)

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Bibi vs. Arik

The ever-reliable Graham Usher has an article ("The Soul of Likud," al-Ahram Weekly) on the upcoming battle between Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon for control of the Likud and, more broadly speaking, the State of Israel and its policies. It's not long so go read the whole thing, why don't you.


Egyptian Elections II

Gihan Shahine of al-Ahram Weekly writes on the situation of polling monitors in the Egyptian elections, who were at first banned by the government from entering polling places and then allowed (officially, but not necessarily in practice) in a last-minute decision.
Rights groups told Al-Ahram Weekly that only a few judges had actually received the commission's last-minute decision and that most monitors were blocked from entering polling stations in cities across the country including Cairo, Aswan, Minya and Qena.
There were numerous charges of fraud, including allegations of the government bussing civil servants to polling places, of the ruling National Democratic party (NDP) paying poor Egyptians to vote, of the indelible ink being diluted in some places so that it could be washed off allowing some people to cast multiple votes, and of people arriving at the polls only to find that a vote had already been cast in their names. Given these allegations and the refusal to allow monitors, there was obviously some displeasure with the process expressed.
Mohamed Zarie, director of the Egyptian Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRAAP) and the coordinator of the National Campaign for the Monitoring of Elections (NCME), was equally sceptical. "There is no reason why the government should not allow local observers unless it is up to something," he said matter-of-factly. "The ruling National Democratic Party is seizing authority by force. These elections cannot be legitimate."
Brian Whitaker of the Guardian writes that the Mubarak machine "put on an overwhelming display of organisational strength" during yesterday's elections. This display included the following:
The president's National Democratic party had set up a "guidance" stall near the entrance which was decorated with pro-Mubarak posters. Staff checked voters' names before issuing them with a slip carrying the president's photograph and indicating where they should vote. A party official said the system, which had also been set up at other polling stations, was "to ease the flow of voters".
Ease them right into voting for Mubarak. Also, Whitaker writes:
Although Mr Mubarak is expected to win by a huge margin, initial reports from witnesses suggested the turnout was relatively low.
This sentence is misleading to me. I hardly think that turnout was low although Mubarak was expected to win big. I would argue that turnout was low because there seemed to be no chance of Mubarak being denied another term. Why bother voting when you know who is going to win? Voter apathy works the same everywhere -- the less one feels his or her vote will make a difference, the harder it is to motivate that person to vote.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Egyptian "Democracy"

Today marks yet another victory for George W. Bush in his crusade to spread democracy in the Middle East. After elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon (all thanks to the U.S. and leading to peaceful, stable, prosperous, and harmonious democratically governed states, of course), Bush can now add Egypt to the list. As Egyptians vote today, al-Jazeera reports of low voter turnout:
In the first half-hour of voting, only four young women showed up to vote [at one Cairo polling station] - but there were no locks on the ballot boxes, so polling officials refused to allow any votes to be cast....

Some organisations tracking the elections issued initial reports stating that no voters or judges had shown up in at least two electoral committees in the new Egypt neighbourhood, the correspondent reported.
There were also some allegations against the government regarding poor voting practices:
Aljazeera has learned that the national party hired buses to transfer citizens to polling centres to support Mubarak....

Aljazeera's office in Cairo has also received reports that al-Ghad and al-Wafd parties in Port Said and Giza have submitted complaints that electoral officers did not apply indelible ink on the fingers of voters....

The two parties have also complained that the ink used could be easily removed from voters' fingers in some areas...
Meanwhile, Ha'aretz reports that pro-government thugs forcibly broke up a protest organized by the opposition.
The men chased and beat up some of the several hundred demonstrators and ripped apart banners calling for a boycott of Wednesday's election, Victoria Hazou, a photographer who witnessed the scene, said.

"They [the men] were chasing after [the demonstrators]. When they got people alone they beat them up," she told Reuters.

The protest was organized by the Kefaya movement, which has this year held a series of demonstrations calling for an end to the rule of longtime leader Mubarak, who is widely expected to win the election.
Update [5:52 pm]: Within Juan Cole's article on Salon refuting Christopher Hitchens's 10 reasons to be proud of the Iraq war (personally, I don't know that Hitchens deserves this much of Cole's attention or this much space devoted to attacking him on Salon, but that's a different matter), Cole is clear about how much "democracy" in Egypt the Bush administration can take credit for:
Hitchens has not shown that the Iraq war has encouraged democratic and civil society movements in Egypt. Bush's war did encourage 100,000 Muslim Brothers to come out to protest it, and it therefore reinvigorated the fortunes of political Islam in Egypt. The Mubarak government, however, refuses to recognize the Brotherhood as a legitimate political party, despite its popularity. Democratic and civil society movements in Egypt are of old standing, and they did not need an American imperial boot print in Iraq to jump-start them. Hosni Mubarak has agreed to allow a small number of officially recognized parties to field candidates against him in the presidential elections, but this change is window-dressing. Does Hitchens seriously believe Mubarak will lose?
Of course not.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Window of Opportunity

You hear the words "window of opportunity" connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so frequently they have lost much meaning in and of themselves (if they ever had any to begin with). Most recently, we were besieged by media reports that the "historic" Gaza withdrawal would result in a "window of opportunity" in the Middle East. So now we finally get down to what the "window of opportunity" really meant; that is, whose opportunity and for what.
Education Minister Limor Livnat said Tuesday that Israel should use what she termed a "window of opportunity" afforded by the disengagement, in order to build up West Bank settlement blocs, even over the objections of the nation's closest ally, the United States. (Ha'aretz)
Yep, that's the opportunity folks. Can you hear it knocking? In another quote from this article:
"Whoever thinks the disengagement from Gaza will continue with disengagement from the large settlement blocs is very wrong. We will see to it this does not happen," [Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev] Boim said.
And you just know that the Palestinians aren't going to be thankful for this opportunity. Ingrates.


a Roman bridge on via Claudio, Blera (photo by my dad)


Scilla autumnalis and a honey bee (photo by my dad)

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