Election linkage

Here's an interesting result from the Palestinian elections: Egyptian activists are using the pretext of free, multi-candidate elections there to push for constitutional reform at home.

Egyptian reformers have demanded that, like Palestinians, they too should have a chance to choose their leader from a host of candidates. 


Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, who has won four presidential terms in referendums where he is the only candidate, earlier congratulated new Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, who beat six other candidates.


"The Palestinian people chose their president," said Husain Abd al-Raziq, spokesman for the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR). "I think the Egyptian people are not naive, and are capable of choosing from among many candidates."


He was speaking at a news conference called to announce that the EOHR would work with six other human rights organisations and four opposition parties in a campaign to change the country's three-decades-old constitution.


As I've said before the Palestinian elections are hardly an example of free elections considering the pressure put on certain candidates not to run and the real threat that if the "wrong" candidate was elected he risked being given the same treatment that Arafat was given. Moreover, the voter turnout has been widely exaggerated by most media. I was bed-ridden with a rather painful muscle-spasm yesterday, but CNN and the BBC were waxing lyrical about historic democratic elections and so on. I thought those were meant to have taken place in 1995. But at least Abbas only won by a little over 62% of votes, which is more reasonable than the 95-99% you see in some countries.

In the meantime, Iraqi expats in Cairo are setting up a voluntary polling center for the upcoming Iraqi elections after Egyptian officials refused to help them out.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.