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Oil Ticks to Hold Elections

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This is unambiguous good news from a country that just banned Barbie. Do you think for one moment this would be happening without the strong actions the U.S. has taken since 9/11, most specifically right next door in Iraq? Or are the pampered, stuffed, duplicitous satraps who run Saudi Arabia acting out of a sudden epiphany of enlightenment involving the Rights and Dignity of All Men? I’d say it’s a bit more likely regime change in the neighborhood was the WD-40 behind this move:

    Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, announced Monday it would hold its first elections to vote for municipal councils, seen as the first concrete political reform in the Gulf Arab state.

    The announcement by the cabinet followed growing demands by reformists on de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah to allow wider political participation, elections and freedom of expression in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

    In taking this action, Saudi Arabia has joined a growing trend toward experiments in democracy in other Gulf Arab countries. The decision also coincided with the opening of the first human rights conference in Riyadh.

    “The council of ministers decided to widen participation of citizens in running local affairs through elections by activating municipal councils, with half the members of each council being elected,” the state news agency SPA said.

    It did not give further details but seemed to imply that other members would be appointed by the government. It said preparations for the polls should not take more than one year.

    “Our happiness will be complete when there are 100 percent elections,” said 38-year-old Saudi citizen Sultan Abdul-Aziz. [Reuters]

Exactly, and what the plutocrats don’t understand is that once the process has begun, it won’t stop until the end Mr. Abdul-Aziz is desirous of prevails. There is no doubt that change is happening right now in the region, change we have enabled and must continue to foster.

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About Eric Olsen

  • mike

    What about democracy in this country? That seems to be on its way out, as evidenced by the fact that there will be no Congressional vote on the FCC media consolidation rule. The Revolutionary Power prevails.

    The Romans and the Greeks and the French under Napoleon went around spreading “democracy” too. It then promptly collapsed at home. As the Founding Fathers understood, the centralization of power and militarism necessary for such adventurism are death to republican institutions.

  • Eric Olsen

    mike, your analogy is not without logic, but the difference as I see it is that we don’t want an empire, we are not building an empire, we wouldn’t take an empire if it was handed to us. We are more like Johnny Appleseed, spreading democracy then moving on.

  • mike

    Well, believe it or not, the French and the Greeks had the same flattering perception of themselves. We’re just doing the world a favor by spreading our good cheer, they said. They were deluded, and so are “we” (i.e., “you”).

  • http://www.templestark.com/blog Temple A. Stark

    Oil ticks????

  • Eric Olsen

    Contemptous shorthand for Saudi plutocracy

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    There was a bit NPR today about this, and also a segment on PRI’s The World on NPR from a gathering of writers and intellectuals in Iraq. Most had been imprisoned for their views of one sort or another during Hussein’s reign, and all of the ones I heard quoted in the segment were heartily pro-US, describing the remain instability in the country as minor and nothing to worry about. PRI described them as the intellectual class of Iraq. Interesting.

    I am indeed concerned about the patterns of history repeating. That such a small segment of the population regularly votes is another bad sign.

    Still, America so far seems to be better-prepared to avoid the hazards of empire than either the French or the Athenians. We handled it after WWII, pulling back over time, and so far we seem to be mirroring that time more than older examples.

    So far.

  • http://www.templestark.com/blog Temple A. Stark

    I got the contemptous.

    It seems like a Saudi trial balloon. What, truly, is their motivation?

  • JR

    Say, that reminds me: how is Kuwait’s transition to democracy going?

  • Eric Olsen

    not far along enough, much farther than the Saudis

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    JR, Kuwait is the only Arab Gulf state with an elected parliament, so I’d say it’s doing reasonably well. You can find out more information from the Kuwait Information Office, but there is some confusion after reading that page on whether women are allowed to vote or not. I don’t think so, but the information is conflicting.

  • JR

    Actually I checked the CIA Factbook (I should hope it’s accurate!)

    The Kuwaiti constitution dates to 1962. Only the legislature is elected. The monarch is hereditary and the rest of the executive branch is appointed. Those allowed to vote are males who have resided in Kuwait since 1920 and their male descendents (starting at age 21). In 1996 the vote was extended to naturalized males who have resided in Kuwait for 30 or more years. I wonder if that was the step toward democracy that was promised after we restored their sovereignty – seems rather meager. In any case, only 10% of the population is eligible to vote.

    It seems to me that the first Gulf War provided us with a good opportunity to “spread democracy” in the Middle East; and it looks like we dropped the ball there. Therefore I view this move by the Saudis with some skepticism. I think we’ve already demonstrated that they can make a token gesture and we’ll nod and move along.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Kuwait claims 15%. The number is skewed slightly because military and police members are not allowed to vote to protect against politicizing those services. Interesting idea.

    The legislature was dissolved from 1976 to 1981 (at the whim of the monarch), and then dissolved again in 1986. I’ll quote from the web page I linked to earlier:

    During Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait, Kuwaiti opposition leaders met with the Government in an extraordinary meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to decide who was the legitimate government in exile. They emerged with a pledge to support the Amir and the Crown Prince as the legitimate representatives of the Kuwaiti people. The Amir in turn pledged to hold elections and to restore parliamentary democracy. In 1992, the Amir fulfilled his promise by holding elections in October. The first session of the reconvened Assembly ran its course, and elections were held again in 1996. Under normal circumstances, the Assembly would have stood for election again in October of 2000, but on May 4, 1999 the Amir once again dissolved the Parliament. This time, however, the dissolution followed constitutional guidelines, and early elections were scheduled for July 3.

    The “constitutional guidelines” mentioned say that: “The Amir has the power to adjourn the Assembly for a period not exceeding one month and may also dissolve the Assembly and call for new elections within two months.”

    So yes, our liberation of Kuwait had a positive effect on democracy in Kuwait. The elected assembly can question ministers, and can overturn any act passed by the Amir during the times of dissolution, which does provide for some balanace of power. Unfortunately, one of the ways in which they have exercised that power is to overturn a decree by the Amir to allow women to vote and hold public office. So they can’t vote. If the Amir truly had absolute power, it seems that women would be able to vote. Odd expression of democracy, no?

    But apparently, things are changing right now. They can now vote in city elections, though still not for parliamentary elections. Here’s to hoping!

    Really, I think that you should read this.