World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Dynamics of Electoral Politics (023) - Panel

· Date: MON 19, 2.30-4.30 pm

· Language: English

· Description:

Chair: Luciano Zaccara (University of Exeter & Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Paper Presenter: Ashraf Mahmoud Maher (Graduate Student, American University in Cairo), “Survival at a Price: The Aims and Consequences of Egypt's 2005 Elections”
The Egyptian regime's choice to hold the 2005 competitive presidential elections came as a shrewd tactic to enforce its survival strategy by overcoming the strategic impasse it encountered on the domestic level in view of its legitimacy deficit. Likewise, it was a bid to neutralize the mounting international pressure for serious political reform. On the other hand, the 2005 elections can be seen as part of the regime's attempt to institutionalize a camouflaged succession mechanism for President Mubarak’s son whose leading role in the parliamentary elections was an obvious step towards his ascendancy in Egypt's political life. In line with these hypotheses, the paper will discuss the 2005 presidential and parliamentary elections as part of the pseudo reforms carried out in the framework of the regime's politics of 'authoritarian liberalization'. While paying lip service to democracy and propagating competitive electioneering, the Mubarak regime was keen to retain its overwhelming ability to dominate the structure of public life. This fact will be explored by focusing on the restrictive political and legal environment in Egypt which disallowed the presence of genuinely competitive elections. In this respect, the paper will investigate the implications of the constitutional amendment of Article 176, the role of Presidential Electoral Commission, touching upon the regime's legal manoeuvres including those aimed at neutralizing counter pressures from the Egyptian judiciary for full supervision of the ballots. The paper will also devote equal focus on the blatant manipulation techniques exercised during the electoral process such as ballot stuffing, bribery and voter intimidation. Throughout the analysis, the paper will demonstrate that the 2005 elections were neither reformist nor controlled. While the political milieu and the electoral politics of the regime were clearly indicative that its ultimate end was to survive rather than democratize the unprecedented level of pressure it encountered while trying to enforce the pseudo reforms was out of its consideration. The paradox lies in the fact that the 2005 elections conducted by the regime to soften its authoritarian image has exacerbated its legitimacy crisis. This explains the public anger continued in the post-election years either on the street or in the independent media. This instigated a regime alerted over its shrinking authority to reassert its influence through de facto repression / an approach typical of authoritarian regimes which introduce limited political openings to prolong its durability, but find resultant pressures for serious reforms too risky to be tolerated.

Paper Presenter: Hendrik Jan Kraetzschmar (Lecturer in Middle East Politics, University of Leeds), “Electoral Rules, Candidate Behaviour and the "Ideologization" of Competitive Politics in Egypt and Saudi Arabia”
This paper explores the relationship between electoral rules and candidate behaviour in Arab elections, and its broader implications for the dynamics of electoral politics. It argues that the distal (or psychological) effects of electoral provisions are evidently at work even in authoritarian elections, yet that the consequences of these effects are far from uniform across regional polities. In particular, it highlights that similar institutional incentives can carry vastly different implications for processes of group formation and group institutionalisation in Arab elections. Whilst in some instances they may aid in the creation of distinct political formations, even foster an ideologization of politics, in others they may contribute to a marginalisation of formal associations (e.g. political parties) and reinforce personalism in electoral politics. The research itself is based on a comparative micro-level analysis of Egypt’s 2000 parliamentary elections and the (partial) Saudi municipal council elections of 2005. In both countries, electoral provisions are in place that encourage the formation of so called ‘vote-maximising’ alliances between candidates at the district level. Whilst they can take different forms and shapes, these alliances are essentially forged to broaden a candidate’s electoral support base, and thus his or her chances of winning the district race. I posit that in Saudi Arabia, where elections are run on a non-partisan basis, there was a strong tendency for these vote-maximising alliances to emerge between politically like-minded candidates. This in turn precipitated a certain ideologization of the electoral realm and with it a crystallization of proto political currents in the Kingdom. In Egypt by contrast, with its long tradition of multiparty elections, these alliances were more often than not forged across party lines and between candidates of different ideological persuasions. As such they had a detrimental impact on prospects for party institutionalisation, contributing to the marginalisation of party labels and programmes in the electoral arena.

Paper Presenter: Chaymaa Hassabo (PhD Candidate, Institute of Political Science, Grenoble) “The Legitimacy of an Outsider: Egypt's Political Opposition Crisis”
According to the amended article 76 of their Constitution, Egyptians now have the right to ‘elect’ their president in ‘pluralistic’ elections. As a new electoral phase (Parliamentary elections 2010 - Presidential elections 2011) draws near, a new cycle of political activism has emerged. This activism is motivated by the return to Egypt of the Nobel Laureate Muhammad Al-Barâd’î, the former president of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In fact, since September 2009, several groups have mobilised in favour of Al-Barâdî’s presidential candidacy. Regardless of the popularity of this international figure, this begs the question: what about insider Egyptian politicians, either independents or partisan candidates? In fact, the search for an outsider to compete with a potential National Democratic Party candidate, or even to lead the opposition front against the regime, is symbolic of the crisis affecting the political opposition in Egypt. The fact that people are rallying behind Al-Barâd’î means, above all, that it is very difficult for existing political parties to represent themselves to society as a credible alternative to the NDP. The enthusiasm of public opinion in favour of al-Barâd’î, especially among Egyptian youth, reflects society’s deep and urgent need of a ‘leader’, a new and a charismatic one. From this point of view, it is perhaps a little exaggerated, but not completely inappropriate that Egyptian independent media compare al-Barâdî’s return with that of Saad Zaghlûl from his exile. Through the study of this mobilisation in support of al-Barâd’î, I would like to analyse political opposition strategies, not only under an authoritarian regime, but especially in the context of a prolonged presidential succession process. For this purpose, I intend to focus on this second cycle of political mobilisation which has a double object: change (al-taghyîr) and the struggle against the inheritance of power, which started in the summer of 2009. The first cycle was led by Kifâya (the Egyptian Movement for Change) in 2005-2006. Even though these different cycles of political activism reflect an overall ‘need for change’ in Egypt, could one say that above all, they actually benefit the regime as they give some semblance of « democratic » features to an authoritarian regime? This presentation aims to shed some light on the relationship between incumbents and opponents in an authoritarian context, and on how they eventually tend to help each other, even though this relationship is presented as antagonistic.

Paper Presenter: Mohammed Redzuan Othman and Shaharuddin Badaruddin (Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Malaya), "Competing for a Middle Path in the Post 12th General Election in Malaysia: Political Actions Based on Islam by Political Parties and Non Governmental Organization"
The 12th Malaysian General Elections in 2008 has drastically changed the political landscape of the country. For the first time in Malaysia’s 50 years of political history, the ruling party, the National Front, (BN) lost the two thirds majority in parliament and was defeated in several states. One of the important factors that contributed to the loss was the success of the opposition party in garnering votes from non-Muslims. Equally important, the fact that the opposition parties also managed to forge a strong coalition as an alternative to the existing government and successfully weakened the credibility of the ruling party on issues of good governance. The history of Malaysian politics clearly shows that the success of any political party in the elections depends on its ability to get support from the Malay Muslim community, with a sizable backing from the non-Muslim voters. The support from both communities had been pivotal to the achievement of the National Front in maintaining power since 1057. For the Malay Muslim community, the competition, as champion for political Islam, is between the ruling United Malaysian National Organisation (UMNO) and the opposition, the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and to a certain extent the PKR. Even though UMNO is a pragmatic political party, it has managed to portray the image of defender of Islam by way of tolerance (the middle path), and assigned the image of the extremist and fundamentalist to PAS. Since 2004, however, the Malaysian political landscape has experienced a new form of alignment. The UMNO monopoly as sole defender of Malay and Muslim rights diminished and the role shifted to the opposition party under the name of Pakatan Rakyat (The People’s Coalition). The shift occurred following the open policy adopted by PAS concerning issues on women and the rights of non-Muslims. As a result of the shift in policy, a greater number of non-Muslims showed their confidence in PAS and were willing to vote for its candidates. These trends continued with greater significance in the Malaysian 12th General Elections in 2008. Despite the fact that the opposition, the Pakatan Rakyat, are made up of a coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS that adopt contradicting policies, they managed to handle sensitive issues pertaining to the interest of the various ethnic groups convincingly. Among other issues, the issues pertaining to the rights of the Malays, the Malay unity and the use of the word Allah by the Catholics, have created fierce debates between UMNO and the Pakatan Rakyat. Since these issues touch on the interest of the Malays in general, non-governmental organisations (NGO) with Islamic inclinations have also been drawn into the discussion. Interestingly, the polemics in the Malay Muslim community on various issues in Islam, including those mentioned above, have also attracted the attention of Muslim scholars from the Middle East such as Yusof Qaradhawi and Wahbah Zuhali, two intellectuals very highly regarded by the Malay Muslim community. This paper will try to explore the issues debated in the Malay Muslim society and the stand taken by UMNO, PKR, PAS, and the NGOs in their bid to champion the middle path in order to gain the trust and support of the community in general.