Women are at a crossroads in the Middle East and North Africa. This is widely reflected in the current battles over the adoption of quotas aimed at improving women’s chances of being elected into parliaments. Although women’s quotas were introduced as early as 1979 in Egypt, there are new efforts underway in the Middle East to implement them. Last year, Tunisia adopted a law requiring that party lists alternate between men and women. In a more restrained manner, Libya recently drafted an election law that gives women only 10 percent of the seats. However, the struggle for quotas has also met with resistance as in Egypt, which abandoned a 2010 quota law altogether that would have ensured the presence of 64 women in the parliament.
With Islamist on the doorstep to power in Tunisia, it is now Morocco’s turn to go to the polls in elections that despite the low turnout expected, will likely bring religion closer to government. But unlike votes in Tunisia and Egypt, which served as climatic final acts in revolutions that surprised the world, the November 25 polling day in Morocco is likely to be a subdued affair.
Last summer, spurred into action as autocrats fell across the Arab world, the king of Morocco Mohammed VI hastily called a referendum asking Moroccans to decide on a new political system that would see the monarch ceding prerogatives. In the July vote, more than 98 percent of Moroccans approved the political reforms and a call for early legislative elections quickly followed.
The Emir of Gulf Arab state Qatar said on Tuesday elections to an advisory council would be held in the second half of 2013, the state news agency reported. “From the podium of this council, I declare that we have decided that the Advisory Council elections would be held in the second half of 2013,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said in a speech to the body.
“We know that all these steps are necessary to build the modern state of Qatar and the Qatari citizen who is capable of dealing with the challenges of the time and building the country. We are confident that you would be capable of shouldering the responsibility.” He did not say if the council, which currently has no legislative powers, would be given more weight.
As the Tunisian electoral commission yesterday announced the results obtained at the polling stations confirming the frontrunner Al-Nahda party – which had won 90 among 217 seats in the upcoming constitutional assembly – heavy clashes broke out in Sidi Bouzid, the southern city from where the uprising against the former regime had spread out to the rest of the country.
The clashes in Sidi Bouzid, where government buildings including the courthouse and army headquarters were assaulted with molotow cocktails and police forces pelted with stones, broke out after the electoral commission banned some of the over 20 elected candidates of the Popular Petition from taking their seats in the assembly. The electoral commission is accusing the Popular Petition party of having violated the rules regarding foreign financial support for the electoral campaign.
The Islamist Ennahda party has been officially declared the winner of Tunisia’s election, setting it up to form the first Islamist-led government in the wake of the “Arab Spring” uprisings. But the election, which has so far confounded predictions it would tip the North African country into crisis, turned violent last night when protesters angry their fourth-placed party was eliminated from the poll set fire to the mayor’s office in a provincial town.
Ennahda has tried to reassure secularists nervous about the prospect of Islamist rule in one of the Arab world’s most liberal countries by saying it will respect women’s rights and not try to impose a Muslim moral code on society.
The Islamists won power 10 months after Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vegetable seller in the town of Sidi Bouzid, set fire to himself in an act of protest that led to the fall of Tunisia’s autocratic leader and inspired uprisings in Egypt and Libya.
Tunisia: Election feat sets high bar for Arab Spring nations lacking its rigor and enthusiasm | The Washington Post
No matter what the results, Tunisia’s landmark election was a monumental achievement in democracy that will be a tough act to follow in elections next month in Egypt and Morocco — and later, in Libya. In just five months, an independent Tunisian commission organized the first free elections in this North African nation’s history. The ballot attracted 80 parties offering candidates, drew a massive turnout by impassioned voters and was effusively praised by international observers.
“I have observed 59 elections in the last 15 years, many of them in old democracies … and never have I seen a country able to realize such an election in a fair, free and dignified way,” said Andreas Gross, a Swiss parliamentarian and the head of the observer delegation for the Council of Europe. “I was elected in Switzerland on the same day in elections that were not much better than here.”