Participation and Democracy East and West: Comparisons and Interpretations

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There are several non-governmental organizations that publish and maintain indices of freedom in the world, according to their own various definitions of the term, and rank countries as being free, partly free, or unfree using various measures of freedom, including political rights, economic rights, freedom of the press and civil liberties. An analysis on the level of constitution around the world is conducted every year by Freedom House.

PR and CL are rated from one to seven, with one being most free and seven being least free. Regimes are classed as either 'free, partly free or not free'. The below table summarizes the findings of the - Freedom in the World report on the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. There are a number of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East.

A prominent figure in this movement is Saad Eddin Ibrahim who advocates and campaigns for democracy in Egypt and the wider region, working with the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies [17] and serving on the Board of Advisors for the Project on Middle East Democracy. People's memories The Cold War made the United States and other western democracies look the other way when it came to political oppression and allowed them to deal with tyrants and dictators.

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The Middle East Forum , a think tank based in Philadelphia, recently published their table for measurement of democracy within Middle Eastern states. The results showed very little progress from The report even states that this pattern may be counter-productive to US interests, with Islamism being the only viable opposition to regimes in many Middle Eastern countries. As an additional measure of US attitudes towards the issue of Middle Eastern democratization, on 14 December , the US Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice stated that democracy in the Middle East was "non-negotiable.

The level of democratic process varies widely from country to country. A few countries, such as Saudi Arabia, do not claim to be democracies; however, most of the larger states claim to be democracies [ citation needed ] , although this claim is in most cases disputed [ citation needed ]. A number of republics embracing Arab Socialism , such as Syria and Egypt , regularly hold elections , but critics assert that these are not full multi-party systems.

Most importantly they do not allow citizens to choose between lots of different candidates for presidency election. According to the constitution, the Egyptian president's powers are equivalent to those of the prime minister in parliamentary systems and to the president of the French Fifth Republic. Absolute monarchy is common in the Middle East.

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Saudi Arabia and a few other kingdoms on the Arabian Peninsula are considered absolute monarchies. The endurance of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East is notable in comparison to the rest of the world. While such regimes have fallen throughout sub-Saharan Africa, for example, they have persisted in the Middle East. Yet Middle Eastern history also includes significant episodes of conflict between rulers and proponents of change.

Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the guidelines of a constitution , whether it be a written, uncodified , or blended constitution. This form of government differs from absolute monarchy in which an absolute monarch serves as the source of power in the state and is not legally bound by any constitution and has the powers to regulate his or her respective government.

Most constitutional monarchies employ a parliamentary system in which the monarch may have strictly ceremonial duties or may have reserve powers, depending on the constitution. Under most modern constitutional monarchies there is also a prime minister who is the head of government and exercises effective political power.

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The Middle Eastern countries with Constitutional monarchies are generally considered democratic. For example: Jordan , Kuwait , Morocco , and Bahrain are considered constitutional monarchies. The Iranian Revolution of resulted in an electoral system an Islamic Republic with a constitution , but the system has a limited democracy in practice.

One of the main problems of Iran 's system is the consolidation of too much power in the hands of the Supreme Leader who is elected by Assembly of Experts for life unless the Assembly of Experts decides to remove him which has never happened. Another main problem is the closed loop in the electoral system, the elected Assembly of Experts elect the Supreme Leader of Iran , who appoints the members of the Guardian Council , who in turn vet the candidates for all elections including the elections for Assembly of Experts.

However some elections in Iran, as the election of city councils satisfies free and democratic election criteria to some extent. In other countries, the ideology usually out of power has fostered both pro-democratic and anti-democratic sentiments. The Justice and Development Party is a moderate democratic Islamist party that has come to power in traditionally secular Turkey. Its moderate ideology has been compared to Christian Democracy in Europe. The United Iraqi Alliance , the winner of the recent elections in Iraq, is a coalition including many religious parties.

Historically Iranians were ruled by an absolute monarchy for several thousand years , at least since the time of the Achaemenid Empire B. The Constitutional Revolution in replaced the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy. The constitution went under several revisions during the following decades. The Shah also tried to modernize Iran's economy and westernize Iran's culture. These and other policies contributed to alienating nationalists, leftists, and religious groups.

The monarchy was overthrown in by the Iranian Revolution. In the same year a referendum was held by Ruhollah Khomeini , that asked whether there should be an 'Islamic Republic' or not. The constitution was modeled on the constitution of the French Fifth Republic by the Assembly of Experts for Constitution who were elected by direct popular vote and Khomeini made himself the new Supreme Leader of Iran. After Khomeini's death, the Assembly of Experts which is made of Islamic scholars elected by direct vote appointed Ali Khamenei as the new Supreme Leader.


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Iran holds regular national elections by universal suffrage for all citizens regardless of race, religion, or sex, who are of voting age for electing the President , members of Parliament , Assembly of Experts , City and Village Councils where political parties support candidates. The current political system in Iran was designed to allow Iranians to decide their future by themselves without being oppressed by authorities, but in practice only allows a limited democracy.


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One of the main problems of Iran 's system is the consolidation of too much power in the hands of the Supreme Leader who is elected by the Assembly of Experts for life unless the Assembly of Experts decides to remove him, which has never happened. The power of the Supreme Leader under Iran's constitution is almost unlimited and unrestricted in practice. This combined with the view that he is the representative of God held by some religious groups, being the head of the security and armed forces, and controlling the official state media the radio and television are restricted to state radio and television makes him immune from any kind of criticism and unchallengeable.

Critics of the system or the Supreme Leader are punished severely. Critical newspapers and political parties are closed, social and political activists like writers, journalists, human right activists, university students, union leaders, lawyers, and politicians are jailed for unreasonably long periods for making simple criticism against the Supreme Leader, the Islamic Republic system, Islam and Shia doctrines, the government, and other officials.

They have been even threatened by death sentence though all such verdict in recent years have been dropped in higher courts in recent years and some have been assassinated by the Ministry of Intelligence and militias in the past no such case has been reported in recent years. Another main problem is the closed loop in the electoral system, the elected Assembly of Experts elects the Supreme Leader , so in theory he is elected indirectly by popular vote, but in practice the system does not satisfy the criteria for a free election since the Supreme Leader appoints the members of the Guardian Council who in turn vet the candidates for all elections including the elections for Assembly of Experts.

This loop limits the possible candidates to those agreeing with the views held by Supreme Leader and he has the final say over all important issues. Also the fourth unchangeable article of constitution states that all other articles of the constitution and all other laws are void if they violate Islamic rules, and the Guardian Council is given the duty of interpreting the constitution and verifying that all laws passed the parliament are not against Islamic laws. Many articles of constitution about political freedoms and minority rights e.

Other problems include the issues with the rights of racial and religious minorities, influence and involvement of armed forces specially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij in political activities, widespread corruption in the ruling elite, problems with security forces like police and militias like Ansar-e Hezbollah , and corruption in Judiciary.

Polls in and [28] [29] [30] in Iran by a number of respected Western polling organizations showed that a considerable majority of Iranians supported the system, including the religious institutions, and trusted the system's handling of elections including the disputed presidential elections in Some Iranians and political activists dispute the results of these polls arguing that the results of these polls cannot be trusted because people fear to express their real opinion and the limitations on the follow of information allows the state to control the opinion of people living in more traditional parts of the country.

Some of these polling organizations have responded to these claims and defended their results as correctly showing the current [ when? The polls also showed a divide between the population living in large modern cities like Tehran and people living in other more traditional and conservative parts of the country like rural areas and smaller cities. Lebanon has traditionally enjoyed a confessional democratic system.

A large number of political parties with very different ideologies, are active in Lebanon, but most of them form political alliances with other groups of similar interests. Even though certain high-profile positions in the government and the seats in the parliament are reserved for specified sects, intense competition is usually expected of political parties and candidates. In January , the Economist Intelligence Unit , released a report stating that Lebanon ranked the 2nd in Middle East and 98th out of countries worldwide for Democracy Index , which ranks countries according to election processes, pluralism, government functions, political participation, political cultures and fundamental freedoms.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy represented by a large number of parties, with universal suffrage for all citizens, regardless of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, who are of voting age. The Palestinian Authority operates presidential and parliamentary elections with universal suffrage for all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or sex, who are of voting age. However, no national elections have been held since the Fatah—Hamas conflict erupted into violence in The protests, uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, beginning on 18 December , brought about the overthrow of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments.

Libya was brought into a 6-month civil war which brought about the end of Gaddafi 's year rule. Bahrain and Yemen are experiencing uprisings. The uprising in Syria led to full-scale civil war.

Defining Democracy

Tunisia and Egypt have held elections that were considered fair by observers. Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as Egypt's first president to gain power through an election on 30 June ; however, after protests against him in June , as well as a hour deadline by the Egyptian Armed Forces to respond to the protesters' demands that he did not comply with, Morsi was removed from office in July Morsi's Defence Minister , Abdel Fattah el-Sisi , who served as a general in the Egyptian Armed Forces at the time, was responsible for announcing the overthrow on state television.

Several participants pointed out that government should not conceal information from its citizens. A number of suggestions were put forward by participants regarding the ways in which transparency might be achieved in Africa. These included freedom of the press, donors' insistence that governments make their ledgers and gazettes public knowledge, requiring declarations of assets from public officials, exposing and confronting corruption, and accountability from below.

Some participants also raised the question of whether donors genuinely verify democratic conditions in recipient countries, such as Liberia and Kenya.

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