Among the urban elite and diplomatic community in Sanaa, all eyes will turn to the launch of the long-awaited National Dialogue Conference today, a key component of the transition plan agreed upon in November 2011 that ushered out former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in exchange for full immunity. The good news about the internationally-backed agreement is that Saleh was finally forced from the presidency after more than 30 years of autocratic rule and the fighting stopped. The bad news is that it did not address any of the underlying issues that have plagued Yemen since before the uprising and have only been exacerbated in the time since. The National Dialogue, thus, is positioned to tackle the thorniest issues including calls for Southern independence, the restive Houthi movement in the north, the question of federalism and decentralization, constitutional reform, empowering women and youth, and other issues.
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In some respects, Jordan's recent electoral process began and ended with Abdullah an-Nsour. Nsour was first appointed prime minister of Jordan in October 2012, replacing Fayez Tarawneh, who had served a mere five months. At that time, Nsour became the fifth prime minister of Jordan since the start of the regional Arab Spring at the end of 2010. Now, apparently, he is also the sixth, tapped to form a new government following Jordan's January 2013 parliamentary elections.
There are other signs of continuity amidst all the discussion of reform. Immediately after the elections, the new parliament elected Saad Hayel Srour to be speaker of parliament. Srour had served in the post several times before. Along similar lines, former Prime Minister Tarawneh was appointed Chief of the Royal Hashemite Court. Both men are conservative veteran officials. Similarly, the shift from Nsour to Nsour as prime minister doesn't exactly cry out "change," yet parts of the process were actually new and different.
The Egyptian opposition's decision to boycott parliamentary elections looks familiar to those of us who study Latin America, where high profile boycotts have periodically been used by parties who distrust the government in charge of administering those elections. Unfortunately for the Egyptian opposition, the Latin American experience should be seen as a cautionary tale, since boycotts have too often turned into self-inflicted political wounds. The opposition is choosing not to act as a legislative brake on the executive, thereby reducing its own political influence.
Whether in the Middle East, Latin America, or elsewhere, this is the basic scenario. A controversial regime in a politically divided country holds elections and opposition parties must decide whether to participate or withdraw. Both choices require a difficult cost-benefit calculation.
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Against all expectations, Jordan's parliamentary election this week seems to have generated some optimism. The big questions had little to do with the appeal of specific political platforms or even the candidates themselves, but rather with process and turnout. Would the newly-established Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) reverse Jordan's infamous track record of electoral fraud and pull off a transparent and credible election? Would voter participation exceed levels from previous elections or would citizen apathy and Muslim Brotherhood calls for a boycott take hold? Would the next parliament reflect the same tribal voting patterns and return familiar faces to parliament or inject some new blood into the mix? Final results of the Jordanian election have yet to be announced, but early indicators answer some of these questions and paint a far more interesting picture than anticipated.
On January 23, Jordanians will return to the polls to elect a new parliament. Among the many questions surrounding these polls, of course, is this: Does it matter? Both the 2007 and 2010 elections were marred by extensive charges of rigging, and each produced a lackluster parliament that was disbanded long before its term was up. Many Jordanians complain of economic injustices, corruption in government (especially in terms of business deals connected to privatization), and an electoral and governing system that seems to maintain the status quo. Faith and confidence in the system, in short, are in short supply.
Yet the Jordanian regime has been emphatic that these elections are different. Jordan is different. In my own meetings with King Abdullah, he has consistently argued that Jordan is carving a unique path through the regional Arab Spring: that it is a case of a regime reforming itself. The regime has emphasized that Jordan is at a key turning point, including a shift toward a truer parliamentary system of governance. In an effort to engage public debate and encourage voter participation, the king has even begun publishing a series of brief political treatises. The latest of these, issued this week, addresses the transition to a more parliamentary government.
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The period of Arab uprisings that began in winter 2010 to 2011 has brought myriad changes to the region. However, one perennial constant is the willingness of official and semi-official elements in Jordan to manipulate identity issues in order to stymie meaningful reform. Indeed, given the past history of the Jordanian government, the most recent developments could be viewed as simply boring, were they not so deeply cynical and destructive.
The newest chapter in this ongoing saga of who is a Jordanian -- native East Bankers, certainly; Jordanians of Palestinian origin, not so much or perhaps not at all -- has come in response to the upcoming parliamentary elections. With only a few exceptions, most notably in 1956 and 1989, elections in Jordan have been highly controlled affairs, in which the outcomes have been largely cooked beforehand, either through changes in the electoral law (as in 1993), or through outright fraud (most notably, but certainly not exclusively, in 1997 and 2007). On occasion, when it is argued that "regional conditions" are problematic, elections have been postponed, as in the early 2000s, and in many cases some of the most significant opposition forces, most recently the Muslim Brotherhood, have decided to boycott rather than play the palace's or security forces' game.
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In recent years Kuwait seems to have descended into a never-ending succession of elections, government reshufflings, protests, and grillings of ministers. This often baffles outside observers, and in Kuwait it gives rise to a sense of chronic crisis and dysfunction. Up until recently, however, it has also been possible to make out an underlying story in Kuwaiti politics, a story of the rise of the political influence of the National Assembly. Thus in 2006 the opposition forced through an electoral redistricting over the opposition of the government; in 2009 the prime minister submitted to a parliamentary vote of confidence for the first time in Kuwaiti history; in late 2011 the opposition in the National Assembly forced out the sitting prime minister; in February, following a major bribery scandal implicating pro-government members of parliament (MPs), the opposition won a resounding 34 seat majority in the 50 member National Assembly. Not long ago, few Kuwaitis took seriously the idea of a "popular government" with a prime minister from outside the family; today many expect that it will happen, with the main question being how long it will take.
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Egypt's ultraconservative Salafis have always had an authoritarian streak. Under Hosni Mubarak, Salafis scored points with the regime for taking a philosophical stand against democracy, which they rejected as an un-Islamic model of government. Mubarak successfully coopted Salafis to provide a religious justification for authoritarianism, and used the movement as a counterweight to the Muslim Brotherhood's demands for political reform. During the January 2011 uprising, Salafis initially denounced mass protests against Mubarak, claiming that Islam prohibits rebellions against Muslim rulers.
When it became apparent that the old authoritarian system was disintegrating, Salafis reluctantly reversed their position on political participation and formed parties as a necessary means to achieve their end-game: a theocratic state. But now that the democratic process is derailing their efforts to enshrine Islamic law in Egypt's new constitution, Salafis appear to be reverting to their authoritarian roots.
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On Sunday, Kuwaitis staged what is thought to be the largest protest in the country's history. Tens of thousands responded to the call for a "March of Dignity" in rejection of an emergency decree issued by Emir Sabah al-Ahmed revising electoral laws. Chanting, "we will not let you" they were met by security forces equally determined to enforce the interior ministry ban on marches in Kuwait City. As the tear gas clears and the crowds disperse, Kuwaitis can agree that this was an unprecedented event. But oddly, after this dramatic show of brinksmanship there is no more clarity about where Kuwait is headed and how it will resolve its long political standoff.
The confrontation proved a test of strength and unity between two sides that have unsteady stores of it. The ruling family has been back on its heels since a corruption scandal was seized upon by the parliamentary opposition and its youthful allies to force the resignation of the unpopular Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah, in November 2011, and then to elect a strongly oppositional parliament two months later. Al-Sabah found an unexpected reprieve when the 2012 parliament was voided after just four months due to a technical ruling by the constitutional court negating the dissolution of the previous parliament.
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King Abdullah of Jordan just appointed his fifth prime minister since the start of the 2011 regional Arab Spring, and a sixth will soon be on the way. Veteran politician Abdullah an-Nsour was appointed to replace outgoing Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh, who served for five months in the wake of the surprise resignation of pro-reform Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh (who had served for sixth months). New Prime Minister Nsour is charged with a transitional role by overseeing upcoming parliamentary elections, after which another new prime minister will emerge. Jordan's next elections will most likely be held in December 2012 or January 2013.
Jordanian prime ministers don't tend to stay in office for lengthy terms, but even by Jordanian standards, the pace of government change these past two years has been rapid. For some Jordanians, this amounts to a fairly weak and all-too-familiar tactic for the monarchy to create the semblance of change, without actually having any. But for others, there is a logic to the succession of governments, each charged with a different task, building on the next stage of reform.
While amateur video productions, presidential trips, and embassy walls have occupied the international headlines for Egyptian affairs, the country's troubled constitutional drafting process -- tasked with writing a document that will establish permanent rules and structures for Egypt's politics -- has rushed ahead in keeping with its mandated rapid schedule. Indeed, those involved have sometimes spoken of finishing their task in October, though it would be no surprise if they had to use up until their December deadline. Is the process credible enough to produce a document suitable for a society that aspires for a democratic transition? The short answer is that for all the procedural flaws, the document that is emerging nonetheless offers prospects for a working democracy. There are some critical areas that still have to be ironed out, but the real hurdles for a viable outcome may lie less in the text of the constitution itself than outside of it: in the short term, the search for consensus may prove elusive; in the long term the problems may lie much more in the act of giving general constitutional provisions precise institutional and legal meaning.
The Constituent Assembly elected by the country's now disbanded parliament has divided up into committees to draft various sections as well as a committee to oversee and coordinate those sections. Those committees are now finishing their work and drafts of sections are circulating almost too quickly for observers to track.
Jordan wants the United States to believe that Islamists, headlined by the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic Action Front (IAF) party, are the most dangerous opposition in the kingdom. Yet this is pure fiction, a ruse that exploits Western fears of an Islamist takeover while justifying the authoritarian monarchy's preference for shallow political reforms cloaked in the language of democracy. In truth, nearly two years of protests have exposed the more perilous threat to the Hashemite kingship to be a new generation of tribal opposition. Led by popular youth movements, these grass-roots activists demand that King Abdullah honor past promises to deliver true change, such as a fairer elections law and the elimination of corruption. Left unattended, this unprecedented wave of dissent will create a major crisis for the regime.
Tribal youth opposition began in February 2011, when demonstrations rocked the small town of Dhiban. These groups have since mobilized hundreds of protest events on a weekly basis, including dabke song-and-dance performances, impromptu street protests drawing dozens of people, organized marches attracting hundreds, and contentious acts like blocking highways and harassing government motorcades. That such agitation has spread across Jordan's rural governorates, where many tribal communities reside, flies in the face of academic stereotypes. Whereas urban opposition groups like the IAF draw strength from the Palestinian majority, concentrated in sprawling Amman, the East Bank minority, exemplified by the tribes, is supposed to be the regime's loyal bedrock. The reality is more complex. Tribal youth activists respect the institution of monarchy, but they have lost trust in this monarch and all of his appointed cabinets. Amman may still be a hotbed of opposition, but the most spirited Friday protests now erupt in the northern and southern tribal areas outside the capital.
For decades U.S. foreign policy discourse has been haunted by the idea that there is something categorically different about Islamist political parties. So much so that they need to be thought about, treated, and engaged differently than other political groups with equally strong ideological commitments -- like capitalists, leftists, or green parties. In practice this has led to an assumption that the United States has generally been unwilling to do business with Islamists as a matter of policy. While Iran's 1979 revolution no doubt looms large as a specter here, the policy orientation in question actually traces back most directly to a famous dictum offered by Ed Djerejian -- then Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs -- in 1992. This was in the aftermath of an Algerian election in which Islamists had been poised to win a landslide victory only to see the results annulled by the country's army. An Islamist victory at the ballot box, Djerejian argued, would likely have proven to be a case of "one man, one vote, one time." That is, Islamists would make instrumental use of elections to capture the state, but then dismantle the democratic system once in power to ensure they could never be removed.
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Shouts of "Allahu akbar" rang out Friday night in Benghazi, as Libya lost to Morocco on penalty kicks. Saturday brought a loud night of celebratory honking and gunfire as the polls for the first national election in 60 years closed.
I was in Benghazi observing the election for the Carter Center, which mounted a limited mission due to security concerns. It has issued its preliminary assessment. These are my own views, and not those of the Carter Center.
The Libyans are electing what they call a General National Congress (GNC), which will form the country's first elected government and -- according to a last-minute decision -- preside over regional elections for members of a constitution-drafting committee. Eighty seats in the GNC will be assigned proportionally from closed party lists, with men and women alternating on the ballot. One hundred twenty seats will go to individual candidates. This election will end Libya's self-appointed revolutionary regime, the National Transitional Council (NTC), which led the political side of the February 2011 revolt against Muammar al-Qaddafi.
Tripoli's visual landscape has transformed dramatically over the past two weeks. Candidate portraits, campaign billboards, party platforms, and voting instructions have been pasted, plastered, and positioned everywhere. Until recently, a different kind of sign had dominated Tripoli: the shahid (martyr) memorial. From billboards to handmade posters, these were erected by communities and families in remembrance of those killed by the regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi. There have also been countless have-you-seen-me? type posters for the thousands of Libyans still missing from the 2011 war. But, the graphic cacophony of election propaganda has since drowned out the missing and martyr posters. Though, this visual transformation is not indicative of a total transition from armed revolutionary politics to civil electoral politics.
Here's the good news from Libya on the eve of Saturday's elections: there is little motivation to steal them. The bad news is the reason why. Libya's next government will still be seen by many as just another, if more robust, interim government. Yes, the national assembly will appoint a new cabinet and, more importantly, a commission to draft Libya's post-Qaddafi constitution. These processes, however, will take place under duress. I recently asked an Amazigh (Berber) writer if he thought his mother tongue, Tamazight, would become an official national language in the new constitution. "Of course it will," he insisted. "Now that we have guns, they have to listen to us."
Jordan's lower house of parliament has approved the country's latest draft electoral law, and was soon seconded by the upper house or senate, with no revisions. The public response, however, was anything but quiet. The new electoral law triggered instant uproar across the kingdom among opposition and pro-reform activists.
Even in parliament itself, some members threatened to resign over passage of what they viewed as a regressive law, while others even came to blows. Opposition parties and movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated political party, the Islamic Action Front, threatened to boycott the election unless the law was changed. The Jordanian parts of the twitterverse and blogosphere lit up with animated discussions, most of which were scathing in their assessment of the new law and indeed of reform in the kingdom in general. Indeed, the draft law -- coupled with highly unpopular economic austerity measures -- seemed to reinvigorate Jordan's 17 month old protest movement.
Even writing this feels like déjà vu, however, since this is Jordan's second electoral law in as many months, put forth by its fourth government in the last 17 months. In a sense, we have seen this movie before. Or have we? King Abdullah surprised many observers by calling for a special session of parliament, sending the legislation back to be amended, and even making the same suggestion as the opposition: adding seats for political parties and national lists.
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In March 2011, I paid a visit to Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), located on the banks of the Nile in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Two things immediately struck me. First, there was a tank parked outside of a structure that hardly seemed to be a military site. Second, the court was a beehive of activity. Since at the time Egypt had no constitution, I could not figure out why the employees were so busy.
Now it is clear that I was too quick to dismiss what I saw both inside and outside the building. The SCC's actions today, occurring in the context that they do, reshape Egypt's transition process -- so much so that some Egyptians will likely wonder if they are in any "transition process" at all. That concern is justified. The "process" part was already dead. Now the "transition" part is dying.
Using a bright blue pen, the young man behind the cash register in the kebab shop on the outskirts of Tripoli began to methodically scratch out the face of Muammar al-Qaddafi from his stack of one-dinar notes. About halfway through the pile, he greeted a bill that had already been defaced with a happy nod and smile of satisfaction. After exhausting the one-dinar notes he turned to the 20s, and began surgically excising a miniature Brother Leader from a summit group photo.
Prior to February 17, 2011 everything in Qaddafi's Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya was physically painted a shade of light green to symbolize the political system of stateless government laid out in the Brother Leader's Green Book. (The term jamahiriya was coined by Qaddafi and is usually loosely translated as "state of the masses" or "peopledom.") Today, the country is awash in the red, green and black tricolor scheme of the pre-Qaddafi era Libyan flag, which has been adopted by the revolutionaries as their standard. In Tripoli, where several neighborhoods had loyalist rather than revolutionary reputations, these coats of fresh paint and the common practice of doctoring car license plates to cover the word jamahiriya might raise an eyebrow. But what of the kebab seller's currency handiwork, which appeared to be a private act of conviction?
From the outside, the picture in Libya looks unremittingly bleak. A near daily chronicle of rampaging militias, conflict and chaos headlines coverage by the wire services. But perhaps a casualty of the closure of foreign bureaus and the lesser interest that exists when no U.S. boots are on the ground, some perspective is lacking from the often barebones news reports.
Eight months after the brutal death of Qaddafi marked the end of the civil conflict that followed Libya's popular uprising, support for the regime change appears to have if anything grown. Even if some of this backing falls into the "everyone loves a winner" category, a full 97 percent of Libyans surveyed by Oxford Research International in January thought the revolution was absolutely or somewhat right.
But is the mere fact of the revolution being broadly popular enough to make it right? Is it a sufficient platform to produce a secure and brighter future for Libya?
In spite of this deep and abiding popularity of its popular uprising, Libya finds itself in the midst of a national quarrel over its revolutionary narrative and new founding myth.
In recent weeks, the lines separating Egypt's legal and political realm have gone from blurry to invisible. Some of the fiercest battles seen over the course of the transition have been played out in courtrooms, raising the question: Have judges replaced politicians as Egypt's reigning power-brokers? Controversial verdicts in the trial of Hosni Mubarak and other former regime officials on June 2 brought protesters back to Tahrir Square by the thousands. Meanwhile, the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) is expected to issue two potentially game-changing decisions on June 14: One that could lead to the disqualification of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq just two days before the decisive run-off round, and another that may invalidate the results of the recent parliamentary elections. Either outcome would upend the current electoral process and call into question the legitimacy of the transitional roadmap. With the fate of parliament and the presidential election in the hands of the SCC, another influential judicial institution -- Egypt's powerful Judges Club -- has weighed in on the political turmoil with a scathing attack on the Islamist-led parliament, which some commentators have interpreted as a veiled endorsement of the military's preferred candidate, Ahmed Shafiq. This partisan power-play by a professional association representing 8,000 judges has called into question the neutrality of an institution that bears legal responsibility for administering a free and fair presidential election.
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Those who specialize in European constitutional thought have often talked about the pouvoir constituant in a manner that often makes others' eyelids droop -- it leads to deeply abstract discussions, drawing heavily from dusty tomes that pepper discussions with French and Latin phrases, about where ultimate authority lies for issuing a constitution. But if journalists covering Egypt had taken a course in European constitutional thought -- and managed to stay awake -- they may have been a bit more hesitant before rushing out stories suggesting that Egypt is about to issue a "complementary constitutional declaration." Yes, there were efforts to fill in some of the holes left when the military surprised the country with an interim constitutional declaration a year ago. Yes, the Egyptian press was full of (often un-sourced) trial balloons suggesting the generals were just about to spring another surprise on the nation. And yes, the March 2011 "constitutional declaration" governing the transition is full of gaps and ambiguities and certainly leaves plenty of room for improvement. But it is going to be very hard to make changes to it, precisely because it is not clear where, what, or who the pouvoir constituant is in Egypt today.
Let us try to restrain our most of our philosophizing impulses (and temptation to insert erudite foreign phrases) and get practical by trying to answer three pressing questions: Does Egypt need a complementary constitutional declaration? If so, what should it say? Who could issue it?
As Egypt nears its upcoming presidential elections, the country remains mired in continued political instability and the fog of events that has characterized the country's opaque transition. As a result, crises remain unexplained and inscrutable, further complicating the ability to gauge voter sentiment with any degree of confidence. Coupled with the rudimentary history of public polling and their utter unreliability in the Egyptian context, predictions about electoral outcomes should be approached with the utmost degree of caution. While signs point to a fragmented voter distribution in the first round of voting, there is much we still do not know about the Egyptian electorate and voter behavior. However, based on recent interviews and meetings with Egyptian political leaders and commentators, it is clear that a backlash has developed against the Islamist-led parliament. The scope and breadth of that backlash will now determine whether the compromised former foreign minister of Egypt, Amr Moussa, becomes the country's next president.
Virtually nobody took this week's Syrian elections seriously. It is easy to understand the nearly universal skepticism about balloting in the midst of ongoing killing in a manifestly undemocratic regime. Even when regimes have the best intentions, elections held in such difficult circumstances are rarely credible -- and few believe that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has the best intentions. A U.S. State Department spokesman declared that the balloting "bordered on the ludicrous."
But this misses the point. There is a very real political logic behind the conducting of these elections -- one familiar to decades of such elections under Arab authoritarian regimes, and one which points to the coming terrain of the unfolding political struggle in Syria. The significance of the seemingly insignificant elections lies in the crucial battle over expectations about the regime's future. Put simply, the elections are meant to signal that the regime is strong, and its downfall unthinkable. Even though results have not yet been announced, the elections demonstrate that the regime is in control, both of the process and the outcomes, and the political game must be played on their terms.
For most people in the world, retirement is a time of idleness and careful penny-pinching of pensions or savings. Senior Egyptian military officers, however, are not most people in the world. Upon retiring from his post, a senior officer in Egypt's military becomes a governor of a province, a manager of a town, or a head of a city neighborhood. Or he might run a factory or a company owned by the state or the military. He might even manage a seaport or a large oil company. Luckily for him, he also retains his Armed Forces pension, on top of the high salary for his new civilian job. This privileged group holds almost every high position in the state. Egypt is par excellence a republic of retired generals.
Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential election is rapidly approaching, scheduled to begin at the end of May. Candidates of varied political stances are enthusiastically campaigning in media and touring the length of the country offering promises on everything from security to education to foreign policy. But amid this busy atmosphere, there is silence on the most sensitive and crucial question: Will any civilian winner be able to demilitarize the Egyptian state?
The green backyard at the Salafi sheikh's house in the old Mediterranean city of Alexandria was full of guests. They weren't students who came for religious lessons as usual but rather politicians appealing for the sheikh's political blessing in the presidential elections. It should be no surprise: Yasser Burhami, the ultraconservative Salafi leader and patron of al-Nour party, has become a key player in Egyptian politics. Ironically, a year ago, Burhami kept his distance from the Egyptian revolution and requested that his followers also do so. But today, he is deeply immersed in political strategy and tactics as he struggles to navigate the new terrain confronting the Salafi movement.
The Salafi movement's strategy has become clearer with its surprising decision to endorse the Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh for Egypt's presidency. This was not an obvious call. The decision to choose Aboul Fotouh over the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsi or other possible contenders took weeks of negotiations and discussions within al-Dawa al-Salafiyya (the Salafi Call), the main political Salafi force in Egypt, and its political arm, al-Nour party. That decision has once again reshuffled Egypt's political cards -- and offered new insight into where the Salafi movement is headed.
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"Who needs to watch sitcoms on TV anymore? We watch Egyptian news instead for entertainment."
That's the view of many Egyptians over the entries into and disqualifications from the presidential race. Now that the dust has cleared, and leading candidates Hazem Saleh Abu Ismail, Omar Suleiman and Khairat el-Shater gone, the race has lost some of its drama, but still remains fascinating. In the last 24 hours, yet another candidate might be a thing of the past -- and there is still a month left to go.
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Algeria has thus far kept a relatively low profile amidst sweeping regional change in the Middle East and North Africa. The oil-rich country, often characterized as "untouched" by the Arab Spring, saw no Tahrir Square or Avenue Habib Bourguiba, and, accordingly, has drawn minimal attention from international media. Although Algerians do not loath Bouteflika like Libyans did Qaddafi or Egyptians did Mubarak, they do have similar grievances -- high unemployment, inadequate housing, and a dearth of social services. A recent increase in protests across the country that have resulted in clashes with security forces reflect growing social anxiety, and a number of attempted self-immolations, including one just over a week ago in the Tiaret governorate, reveal that Algerians are actively interested in effectuating change. A cursory look at the situation might therefore suggest, as has some recent analysis, that revolution looms; a closer examination reveals that, at least for the moment, this is probably not in the cards. But while an increasing trend of social discontent will likely not yield drastic change from below, it may motivate Algerians, who have a history of abstention, to turn out in greater numbers in the legislative elections to be held next month, hoping to cast their votes for a party that will address their demands.
The phrase "Egyptian transition process" has become tragicomically oxymoronic in light of the dizzying series of developments over the past month. More metaphorically, events have driven entire herds of elephants stampeding through every legal and constitutional loophole in Egypt's makeshift interim political system.
There are, to be sure, some rules. In the seven weeks following former President Hosni Mubarak's forced departure last year, a series of policy statements by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a set of constitutional amendments developed by an ad hoc committee appointed by the SCAF and approved in a referendum, and a "constitutional declaration" drafted secretly and proclaimed by the SCAF collectively laid out a set of procedures for rebuilding the Egyptian political order. Those procedures have largely been followed. But they have led Egypt into a state of complete confusion.
Who will be Egypt's next president? Sunday afternoon was the deadline for registration for candidacy in Egypt's first presidential election since the end of the 33-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Barring yet another twist in Cairo's political roller coaster, we now have a full roster of the contenders for Egypt's top job. The first round of voting is scheduled for May 23 and 24, with a runoff to follow. Some long-time candidates didn't jump into the ring -- notably former International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) chief and activist leader Mohamed ELBaradei. Of the 23 applicants, here are the frontrunners:
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