Just how democratic is the Middle East getting?

Written by Angelique van Engelen

If democracy is any more up for a redefinition anywhere, now would berepparttar time andrepparttar 135915 Middle East would berepparttar 135916 place. Events in Iraq andrepparttar 135917 elections ofrepparttar 135918 Palestians had a contageous effect in other Middle Eastern countries too. Forrepparttar 135919 first time in at least 50 years, we see grassroots demand for updated versions of democracy in countries that have long been dominated by authoritarian regimes; Egyptians have been demanding to be allowed a multi party system, in Lebanonrepparttar 135920 fall of a strongly Syrian influenced government went accompanied by street rallies and even in Syria, where street bans are most stringent,repparttar 135921 people going out onrepparttar 135922 streets were unusually defyant. What arerepparttar 135923 chances thatrepparttar 135924 grassroots demand for democracy will actually begin to intersect with supply from home governments? Go to any Arab country and readrepparttar 135925 headlines of background sections of newspapers and you’ll surely find yourself immersed in series and series of studies onrepparttar 135926 merits of true democracy, women’s rights as well asrepparttar 135927 links between Islam and women’s rights. You could argue that news inrepparttar 135928 Arab world is taken in a literal sense here but afterrepparttar 135929 sixth week, you’ll find yourself harboring less than democratic feelings forrepparttar 135930 editors ofrepparttar 135931 papers for their lack of ingenuity. Slowly, however, allrepparttar 135932 theorising is being replaced by real live examples of efforts to effect greater democracy in Middle Eastern countries. Not least torepparttar 135933 satisfaction of senior US officials including President Bush, who reiterated thatrepparttar 135934 time has come forrepparttar 135935 Middle East to shrug offrepparttar 135936 shackles of authoritarian regimes only last week. Both in policy circles and onrepparttar 135937 ground, change is taking place, observers say. To descrIbe whererepparttar 135938 two parties interlock would be to coverrepparttar 135939 story ofrepparttar 135940 century no doubt. A lot has been said already aboutrepparttar 135941 spread of democracy inrepparttar 135942 Middle East, but events are finally beginning to providerepparttar 135943 poignancy thatrepparttar 135944 rhetoric went short of for decades and decades. Whyrepparttar 135945 euphoria? Inrepparttar 135946 Middle East, grassroots still really means grassroots. That is why ever sincerepparttar 135947 9/11 attacks,repparttar 135948 think tanks (who have a reputation of providingrepparttar 135949 most dependable information onrepparttar 135950 societies they are active in)’ refocus fromrepparttar 135951 Israeli Palestinian piece efforts to ways of combating terrorism has been more onrepparttar 135952 money than ever. Afterrepparttar 135953 9/11 attacks, many institutions overhauled their agendas and soon their work started to reflectrepparttar 135954 exact concerns that were alive onrepparttar 135955 policy making level. Topics included research into promotion of democracy in a way that endorses, rather than undermines stability;repparttar 135956 war on terrorism, along withrepparttar 135957 diminution of extremism and radicalism as well asrepparttar 135958 nation-building process in Iraq. What was taking place was a shift toward new realities. Initially,repparttar 135959 organizations were accused for totally missing out on any alarming signals thatrepparttar 135960 wider Arab societies might have issued ahead ofrepparttar 135961 9/11 attacks, but this was soon forgotten. More pressing issues such as bigger scope for democracy in more Arab countries were gaining momentum asrepparttar 135962 invasion of Iraq andrepparttar 135963 effort to build a democracy in that ravaged country became a matter of western style branding of a seemingly revamped phenomenon. As Washington was showing itself ready to ‘entertain an unprecedented level of political risk and uncertainty’,repparttar 135964 idea of Arab autocracy was slowly beginning to become more and more old fashioned. All nice for who was buying into it when listening to hyper modern tv reports, but what did this work out onrepparttar 135965 ground? How isrepparttar 135966 US making good on its promise to actually effect greater and true democracy inrepparttar 135967 Arab world. Good question. How do you go about effecting deeper democracies in countries which hardly have any other idea of ruling other than by what they deem decent autocratic approach.

Kyrgyzstan’s Revolution : a New Definition of “Partytime”?

Written by Angelique van Engelen

Kyrgyzstan’s swift and sudden revolution happened almost before one could have managed to pronounce this obscure country’s name. The chaos inrepparttar country where activists chased away their ruling leaders show a country coming to terms with a colonial past and on a quest to find a new identity. Despiterepparttar 135914 looting andrepparttar 135915 – tempered- violence,repparttar 135916 initial reading of this revolution is thatrepparttar 135917 catharsis might preclude a positive outcome. Not so much only for this tiny country, but more importantly perhaps inrepparttar 135918 wider context ofrepparttar 135919 rise of democracy inrepparttar 135920 ex Soviet countries. Evenrepparttar 135921 Russian leader Vladimir Putin has shown a new attitude to regime change in a former Soviet state – vouching support forrepparttar 135922 new regime and also promising to treat its old leader kindly. Kyrgyzstan’s revolution likely will have openedrepparttar 135923 doors to a more pragmatic government that nevertheless will still be leaning on Russia. As such, it will berepparttar 135924 third ofrepparttar 135925 ex-Soviet countries that has seen a grassroots revolution withinrepparttar 135926 last 18 months that Russia has had to swallow. Opposition activists took matters into their own hands to ensure –what else- improved living conditions for a people that have become seriously impoverished atrepparttar 135927 hands of a not so corrupt but still corrupt bunch of leaders.

Kyrgyz nationals followed inrepparttar 135928 footsteps of Georgian and Ukrainian opposition forces. In Georgia,repparttar 135929 opposition - backed byrepparttar 135930 US government- overthrew their Russian puppet cabinet in 2003. More recently, Ukraine last December held another round of Presidential elections afterrepparttar 135931 pro -Moscow outcome ofrepparttar 135932 first round was contested – putting in placerepparttar 135933 pro Western Viktor Yuschenko. Russia’s reaction torepparttar 135934 events, which one overseas based Kyrgyz diplomat branded ‘a coup’, can be seen as uncharacteristic. Perhaps issuing a blue print of a new party line – one of utter pragmatism- President Vladimir Putin did not waste many words overrepparttar 135935 issue. Moscow is ‘ready to work withrepparttar 135936 Kyrgyz opposition’, he said. He also offered refuge to Akayev. Russia has never been very much interested in this poorest ofrepparttar 135937 five Central Asian states. Regional organizations aside from Russia that might be called onto for mediation are not immediately considered capable of inventing an adequate solution, observers say. Most ofrepparttar 135938 five central Asian countries have internal problems and have had difficulties in coping with fledgling economies since well beforerepparttar 135939 fall ofrepparttar 135940 Soviet Union. After 1991,repparttar 135941 region has failed to develop any robust political and economic institutions with clout and this is believed to have an impact onrepparttar 135942 economic development ofrepparttar 135943 countries, most particularly that of Kyrgyzstan. There is also a lot of personal competition betweenrepparttar 135944 region's –mostly elderly- leaders and this attitude, which harks back to Soviet days. This highlights why a distinct cooperative atmosphere in Central Asia is simply non-existent. Russian imperialist ambitions never really very strongly connected to Kyrgyzstan, although Russia has some troops onrepparttar 135945 ground. US troops are also stationed outsiderepparttar 135946 airport inrepparttar 135947 capital Bishkek in accommodation that recently started to take a more permanent form thanrepparttar 135948 tentsrepparttar 135949 soldiers set up when they first arrived some two years ago, say people who’ve visitedrepparttar 135950 country. The base camp was meant to be a "staging ground" for US troops beforerepparttar 135951 fall ofrepparttar 135952 Taleban in Afghanistan. All central Asian countries have long been cited to be particularly vulnerable to outside interference from greater powers, yet it’s unlikely thatrepparttar 135953 events we’ve seen this week in Kyrgyzstan wererepparttar 135954 result of outside meddling. The last years,repparttar 135955 country has shown an ambivalence toward anything that reaks of hegemony. Onrepparttar 135956 one hand there has been fear that Russia would step up its influence and atrepparttar 135957 same time people have wondered what would happen to them if Russian troops would leave. Kyrgyzstan isrepparttar 135958 only country inrepparttar 135959 Central Asian region to have very limited oil reserves –it pumps out 2,000 bpd- and as such it has escaped every foreign power with an interest inrepparttar 135960 region. Just afterrepparttar 135961 fall ofrepparttar 135962 Soviet Union, an enormous discovery of oil reserves underrepparttar 135963 Caspian Sea was made, which it was believed would putrepparttar 135964 region on a par withrepparttar 135965 Middle East in terms of oil reserves and would make itrepparttar 135966 number one spot for natural gas inrepparttar 135967 world. Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazachstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan mutually agreed to carve uprepparttar 135968 rights torepparttar 135969 undersea reserves. The estimates however were somewhat exaggerated andrepparttar 135970 region’s oil interests are of distinct yet not vital importance.

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