Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Good news comes in pairs

With all that bad news that the world can generate, there's also good news that warms the soul, and tells you that everything's worth it.

-The first tidbit is from Kuwait, where Kuwaiti women have been allowed to vote in elections- Kuwait approves Women's political rights. Kuwaiti women will now be able to vote and hold office in their country. Kuwait's been a steadfast ally of the United States and has been far more pro-western than any other muslim nation in the world. They have been alot more accessible to the West, and as a result, they have not had the blinders on that some other muslim nations have had. All they needed was the right political moment for democratization to come- and put the process into play. Bravo to the Kuwaitis, and the best of luck to them in their newfound freedoms.

- The second tidbit comes from Syria of all places. Syria Heralds Reforms, But Many have Doubts:

Beset by U.S. attempts to isolate his country and facing popular expectations of change, Syrian President Bashar Assad will move to begin legalizing political parties, purge the ruling Baath Party, sponsor free municipal elections in 2007 and formally endorse a market economy, according to officials, diplomats and analysts....

Most prominent among the reforms will be a recommendation for a new party law, said the officials, analysts and diplomats. It would envision the formation of parties as long as they are not explicitly based on ethnicity, religion or region. While this is potentially a dramatic step, analysts caution that even if the Baath Party recommends the change, enacting a law could take a year or more. Also, the party is not expected to surrender its constitutionally enshrined position as "the leading party of both the society and the state."

As part of the reforms, the government is expected to enact a law providing for free elections of 15,000 members of municipal councils in 2007. The congress is also expected to endorse the free market as the country's economic orientation -- a break from the party's slogan of "unity, freedom and socialism."

The Baath Party's 21-member leadership, still including many septuagenarian colleagues of Assad's father, will likely be purged, analysts and officials said. The number may be reduced to 15, with only a handful -- perhaps three or four -- carried over from the current leadership. It would mark another step in Assad's consolidation of power and could open the way for the inclusion of powerful relatives like his brother, who heads the elite Republican Guard, and brother-in-law, who heads the feared military intelligence.

It's a step in the right direction, although it seems to me that Assad wants to keep as much control over the situation as possible. The problem is, is that controlling change doesn't work the way you plan. I'm pretty sure that Assad is buying all his logical answers he's presenting us with- but the problem is that the world doesn't work that way. By opening the gates just a little bit, he's creating the situation where those in his country will demand more than just what he's prepared to give them. And how he reacts to their reaction remains to be seen. Plus, the world around him is already skeptical of his plans, and will view them as part and parcel of his Iraqi and Lebanese problems.

The fact that he might be trying to consolidate power- at least for the time being- may well be a plan to allow his country to democratize with as little interference from his own political rivals (ie; his father's supporters). It could also be that the limited democratization that he's installing is nothing more than a window dressing for his consolidation of power. But it's still good news, for a country that generally gets kicked at repeatedly while it's down. I'll remain in a wait and see mode as to what actually happens in the country. But I will say that the situation IS ripe for a democratic change to take effect- either with Assad at the helm, or with him swept away by the laws of unintended consequences. And that's good news, indeed.


Blogger John-EmeryK said...

I think the words you're looking for are perestroika and glastnost -- "Oh wow, our entire regime has been based on lies, deceit, and the use of military might, let's try openness and nonagression." Gorbechov in 1989 or Assad in 2005?

7:43 PM  
Blogger Fafhrd1 said...

I believe that it's a bit more cynical than that. Assad wants to retain power by any means necessary. That extends to creating a bastardized constitutional monarchy, so to speak. If Assad can also co-opt the political parties, he can essentially control the process as well. I don't think his plan will work out in the end, and he'll have to give up ALOT more power than he's willing to at this moment. Time will tell as to how much of a paper tiger Syria really is.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Katsvenland said...

Go Kuwait!

4:34 PM  

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