February 27, 2005

NEW OPENINGS FOR ARAB DEMOCRACY: A Christian Science Monitor roundup:

In a surprise announcement Saturday, Egypt’s long-ruling president, Hosni Mubarak, ordered constitutional changes that would open the door for the first-ever multiparty presidential elections in the world’s most populous Arab country. The move is the latest indication of a cautious democratic shift under way in the Arab world.

Since the beginning of the year, the region has seen national elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, landmark municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, and unprecedented mass demonstrations in Lebanon calling for an end to Syrian tutelage.

The question remains whether these developments are truly the initial flourishings of a nascent democratic transformation or merely halfhearted measures by autocratic regimes which have no intention of promoting genuine change. What happens next is key, observers say.

True enough. Democratization is a process, not an event, as I’ve noted before. But at least it’s a process that’s under way.

Jeff Jarvis, meanwhile, has a roundup of what Egyptian bloggers are saying.