The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Al Jazeera on Arab elections

Here is Faisal al Kassem's framing of the debate on Arab elections in the introduction to his weekly program on Al Jazeera "Al Itagah Al Muakas" or "The Opposite Direction." I've translated it here, though surely without the eloquence it deserves. It's not a precise translation, so don't quote it. An ellipsis (...) indicates that a word or two is missing from the translation. I've linked to the original Arabic transcript if anybody is interested.

Reducing margins of victory by two or three percent, this is how Arab elections and referendums are developing. Do Arab leaders think that they can trick their people with small reductions in their margins of victory in elections, by reducing their official vote rigging from 99.99 percent to 97 or 95 percent? When will they stop this farce and this cheap theater? Do any of these leaders wonder why the Arab world is crying out about the leaders’ double-talk about elections, saying one thing here, and another elsewhere? Has anything changed after hundreds of referendums and elections have been fabricated in the cellars of Arab intelligence agencies? When will the people tell these regimes that have no shame that enough is enough? The young and the old in Ukraine turned out to protest elections in which incidents of fraud did not exceed one percent. Meanwhile Arab votes are robbed year after year and no one has the courage to so much as speak up about these violations. When will [Arab leaders] realize that if they had true elections they would get negative 99.99 percent of the vote?

To what extent are [Arab leaders] wasting millions of dollars on election charades (...)? Is it not better to use those millions to fix some of the Arab hospitals that are not suitable for wild animals, much less domesticated animals? Is it not preferable that, instead of using millions of meters of cloth [as signs] for empty election slogans, we give that cloth to the poor and the destitute to cover their naked bodies?

Does one of the [the Arab leaders] wonder if we are in need of elections and referendums after all of that? However, from the other side, why do we not consider the reductions in the margins of victory to just 95% of the popular vote a positive step that indicates that Arab leaders have begun to feel a little bit of shame? Why do we not say that the Arab elections, in spite of their weaknesses, are a necessary exercise needed to achieve a true democracy? Should we not encourage the changes that have begun to occur with respect to Arab elections instead of denouncing them? Should we not work on the principle that just because one can’t have everything, doesn’t mean you can ignore the matter in its entirety? And is it not unfair to lump all Arab elections in one basket? Did the Algerian president not win by just 85 percent of the vote? Didn’t the Mauritanian president win one time by 60 percent? And didn’t the Tunisian president allow the opposition to participate in the elections?

Hopefully this helps illustrate why Al Jazeera is a welcome addition to the Arab and global media.