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Qatar votes in a minor way

Al Jazeera is reporting that Qataris are headed to the polls in local municipal elections.  Those elected will have minimal political power.  A quote:

A new constitution, passed in a 2003 referendum and introduced in 2005, placed legislative power in a parliamentary-like council, made up of 45 members, two thirds of whom would be elected and the rest appointed by the country’s emir. But currently, the entire council is named by the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

The prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jasem Al Thani, said in February that Doha was moving toward legislative polls “in the near  future.”

The interesting aspect of this story is its contrast to the Arab Spring.  Qatar is an American ally, fairly liberal, and seemingly committed to gradually increasing democratic participation.  Can that work?  Or is sudden radical change necessary?  Perhaps Qatar is on the best path to democracy, but equally possible is that they will never get there.

Political Unrest in North Africa and the Middle East

The NY Times provides a nice interactive feature providing the latest update on each country experiencing protests and links to the most current article.  It also provides a profile of each country and its leader.  Countries included are Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, and Sudan.

A religious leader returns to Egypt

Among those in Tahrir Square celebrating the one week anniversary of Mubarak leaving power was Sunni cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, according to this New York Times article.  He spoke in Cairo for the first time in 50 years, which is how long he has been in exile after being jailed and forced out for his affiliation with Islamist movements in Egypt.  While he is a religious leader, his speeches indicate that he is pro-democracy and pro-pluralism.  He is also an advocate of violent resistance against Israel and against US troops in Iraq.

Clinton Bluntly Presses Arab Leaders on Reform

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton wrapped up her four day tour of the Persian Gulf, with stops in Yemen, Oman, the UAE, and Qatar, by delivering a scalding critique of Arab leaders.  This NY Times article discusses the criticism Secretary Clinton laid out before an audience of Arab diplomats, business people, and human rights groups.  Topics included corruption, repressive political systems, a lack of rights for women and religious minorities, and socioeconomic mobility.

Excerpts from Secretary Clinton’s speech:

“In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere.”

“If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum.  Extremist elements, terrorist groups and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there appealing for allegiance and competing for influence.”

Condoleezza Rice Predicts Better Future in Middle East

DU Alum and former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice discusses her perceptions of U.S. involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the greater region at Hamilton College.

“I see victory that we can safely second-guess the decisions that kept us safe on Sept. 12 and going forward,” she said.