The New York Times is crowing over this, of course, because of its animus toward anything emanating from the Bush Administration. But it is decent of them to have mentioned “the political rise of Islamists” as one reason why this is so. I warned about that in an article published in April 2003.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, April 9 “” Steps toward democracy in the Arab world, a crucial American goal that just months ago was cause for optimism “” with elections held in Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian areas “” are slowing, blocked by legal maneuvers and official changes of heart throughout the Middle East.
Analysts and officials say the political rise of Islamists, the chaos in Iraq, the newfound Shiite power in Iraq with its implication for growing Iranian influence, and the sense among some rulers that they can wait out the end of the Bush administration have put the brakes on democratization.
“It feels like everything is going back to the bad old days, as if we never went through any changes at all,” said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, editor in chief of Forbes Arabia and a prominent Saudi columnist and advocate. “Everyone is convinced now that there was no serious or genuine belief in change from the governments. It was just a reaction to pressure by the international media and the U.S.”
In Egypt, the government of President Hosni Mubarak, which allowed a contested presidential election last year, has delayed municipal elections by two years after the Muslim Brotherhood made big gains in parliamentary elections late last year, despite the government’s violent efforts to stop the group’s supporters.
In Jordan, where King Abdullah II has made political change and democratization mandates, proponents see their hand weakened, with a document advocating change put on the back burner. Parliamentary elections in Qatar were postponed again, to 2007, while advocacy groups say that laws regulating the emergence of nongovernmental organizations have stymied their development.
In Yemen, the government has cracked down on the news media ahead of presidential elections this year, intimidating journalists who had been considered overcritical of the government.
In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has refused calls that the country’s consultative council be elected, while the arrest last month of Muhsin al-Awaji, a government critic, raised questions about how far the country’s newfound openness would go. And in Syria, promises for reforms have been followed by a harsh crackdown on the opposition.