Syrian Elections Reflect Challenge Of Bringing Democracy To The Middle East

Responding to Secretary of State John Kerry’s call for key backers of President Bashar Assad to while on a trip in the Middle East, Hezbollah’s leader Hasan Nasrallah said that any “political solution has to start and end with Assad.”

Nasrallah added that the victory by Assad in the last election means that any discussion “begins and ends” with the acceptance of those results.

The landslide victory by Assad has been acknowledged by most in the international community as a foregone conclusion, but Rami Khouri of Lebanon’s Daily Star raises “profound questions about the Arab world’s apparent difficulty in adopting institutions and practices of liberal pluralistic democracies.”

Pointing to elections in Syria, Algeria, Iraq, and Egypt, Khouri contends the elections are a “continuing insult” and suggest the problem of Arab nations adopting democratic governance lies “squarely in the nature of state configuration and the exercise of power” in those countries.” When citizens have no say in how to shape and define their state and its institutions of decision-making, power remains almost exclusively in the hands of a family or elite at the top that controls the state budget and enjoys the support of the armed forces, in other words that controls the guns and the money,” he concludes.

David Tolbert, president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, attributes the failure of democracy to thrive in the Middle East and Africa to the lack of accountability for the problems (poverty, joblessness) which inspired the Arab Spring.

But why has there been an absence of accountability? In answering that question, Tolbert says the reasons as numerous and complex.

“On a broad level, it comes as no surprise that instituting mechanisms that would hold perpetrators of systematic violations accountable is a highly contentious process, because it inevitably impacts a large number of powerful people previously connected to the regime,” he writes in The Huffington Post.

Democracy has succeeded or failed to differing degrees on the individual level and, therefore, the reasons also differ,” asserts Tolbert.

“However, there are two factors in particular that can be discerned in the failed approach to transitional justice in Egypt, Yemen, and Libya: a lack of political will by powerful elements that have much to lose and little to gain from addressing past violations; and the arbitrary nature of the few reforms that have been proposed or implemented and the absence of an integrated vision for those reforms and what they are designed to achieve in the medium- and long-term,” he adds.

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