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International Reports 2/2006

Italy's Foreign and European Policy / Das The Christian Element in the Party Landscape of Slovakia / Energy-policy Perspectives in the Czech and Slovak Republics / Russia's Back Yard: The Personality Cult and the Gas Poker Game in Turkmenistan / Transformation Processes in the Arab World – the Case of Egypt / The Difficulties of Consolidation. Guatemala's Internal Conflicts Are Stumbling Blocks on the Way to Democracy

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  • Italy's Foreign and European Policy

    It appears that the policy followed by the Italian foreign ministry, the ‘Farnesina’ in Rome, has been characterized by contradictions and unpredictability for along time. The domestic-policy situation, which has been volatile for decades, as well as the Italians’ pervasive anxiety not to be forgotten by the big fellows, may serve to explain a foreign-policy course whose only mainstay may well be support for Europe, for NATO, and for partnership with the USA. Italy suffers from a foreign-policy trauma which originated in August 1943. After the overthrow of the Duce, the country, unable to save itself by embracing neutrality, was constrained to go on participating in the war on the British and American side. This inability to follow an independent policy after the defeat was an experience that left a permanent mark on the country’s foreign policy. It was an experience of humiliation for a country that had felt itself at the zenith of its power under Mussolini but was constrained to side with the Western allies afterwards. Mr de Gasperi, who directed Italy’s foreign policy from 1944 to 1946, felt that the Americans and the British saw Italy not as an ally but as a vanquished nation. The path towards Europe offered an escape from this difficult situation. Italy became a founding member of the Council of Europe, the European Coal and Steel Community, the WEU, and the EEC, joining in every major step towards European integration from then on. While a Catholic model of solidarity in European unification dominated under Mr de Gasperi for a long time, the name of Carlo Sforza stands for avision of a secular Europe of nations, a vision apparently shared by the current government and its foreign secretary, Mr Fini. However, Italy’s foreign policy suffered from the country’s latent domestic instability. As the communist party grew in strength, the Western bloc increasingly saw the country as an unpredictable partner. What is more, the Americans felt irritated by President Gronchi’s capricious political escapades, and the social unrest that swept Italy in the late sixties weakened its policy and nourished the suspicions of its allies. While foreign-policy pressure on Italy slackened somewhat when the Vietnam War ended and Charles de Gaulle stepped down, domestic instability in the country was exacerbated when social upheavals persisted and eight governments followed one another in swift succession between 1975 and 1979. To be sure, the Democrazia Cristiana (DC) kept a firm hold on the reins of power, but the need to maintain social peace forced it to make concessions to the opposition, which blurred the contours even of the foreign policy of the country. As it appeared at the time, the ‘Farnesina’ was a place of permanent or temporary retirement for great domestic politicians, but it did not symbolize a coherent, long-term foreign policy directed by a powerful personality. Nor did the country appear to be able to find its own foreign-policy line during the oil crisis. On the one hand, it could not muster the strength to free itself from the embrace of the US, while on the other, it wooed states like Algeria, Libya, and the USSR to ensure its own independent oil supply.A hiatus came in 1989 when the framework conditions of Italy’s foreign policy changed from the ground up, initiating its gravest crisis so far. The DC disintegrated, the political system of the country fragmented, and Italy disappeared from the international stage for years after 1992. Mr Prodi as well as the left-wing cabinets that followed his government prescribed a programme of rigid austerity to lead the country out of its dilemma and enable it at least to comply with the Maastricht criteria, so that it would be one of the first countries to introduce the Euro. The centre-right government headed by Silvio Berlusconi was eyed with suspicion abroad ever since its inauguration in 2001. To avoid making enemies inside or outside the country, the head of government formulated his goals in foreign and European policy in rather vague terms, handing over the foreign office to Renato Ruggiero, a widely respected personage. However, Ruggiero’s withdrawal in 2002 forced Mr Berlusconi to take over the office himself. The current foreign secretary, Mr Fini, did earn some respect for himself, although there is still no coherence in the country’s foreign policy under his leadership. Cases in point include the Italian campaign against a seat for Germany on the UN Security Council and the half-hearted involvement of the country in the Iraq war. Even Mr Berlusconi helps to create a bad impression by trying to present himself as open towards the Atlantic Alliance, Russia, and Europe, all at the same time. Italy’s image also suffered from the dispute between the head of government and Mr Prodi, the President of the EU Commission, as well as from the country’s relative lack of success during its presidency of the EU Council. To make matters worse, a member of the European Parliament was insulted by the head of the Italian government, diplomatic relations with Germany suffered when Mr Berlusconi verbally attacked German tourists in Italy, and the intergovernmental conference on the EU constitution treaty was badly prepared to boot. A number of further examples might be quoted. There are indeed questions that remain open, some of them relating to European policy: What exactly is the position of Italy in Europe? Does it share the vision of European integration, or does it merely support the process of unification to avoid becoming isolated? Another question relates to Italy’s faithfulness as an ally. Is the country firmly standing side by side with the USA? After all, Mr Berlusconi was walking a political tight rope even before the war in Iraq entered its active phase: While backing up Mr Bush and Mr Blair on the one hand, he acted at the same time to keep Italy’s good relations with the Arab states from deteriorating. Another question that must be asked is about Italy’s position within the region. Does the country have a stringent Mediterranean policy, or does it only show interest in its southern neighbours when it is interested? And what is its attitude towards the Middle East crisis? In this regard, Italy has always been vacillating between traditional, leftist-Catholic sympathy with the Palestinians, good relations with the Arabs, and near-unpredictable relations with the Israelis. It is indeed remarkable that the foreign office should now be headed by Mr Fini, the chairman of the post-fascist AN party that is particularly critical towards Israel. Thus, the crucial question is this: What is Italy’s position in foreign policy? It is anything but easy to find an answer. At times, it appears as if the policy of the ‘Farnesina’ in Rome was guided by reflexes. What is more important than anything else is this: Italy must not be forgotten, for it is the country’s presence that counts.

  • The Christian Element in the Party Landscape of Slovakia

    Much of the history of Slovakia has been shaped by Catholic and Protestant intellectuals. Representatives of both denominations were engaged in the Slovakianrenaissance of the 18th century. Catholics helped support the fight against communist rule and assisted in consolidating democracy after Moscow’s puppetregime had collapsed.In the 19th century, the development of the party landscape in the kingdom of Hungary was greatly influenced by three conflicts: About constitutional law, about the economic and social orientation of the country, and about the position of ethnic groups in aMonarchy bent on assimilation or ‘magyarisation’.The establishment of the Slovakian National Party (SNS) in June 1871 was founded on the Memorandum of the Slovak Nation adopted ten years before which demanded, among other things, equal rights for all nations in Hungary. Motivated by the social encyclical Rerum novarum promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 as well as by the anti-clerical attitude of the Court at the time, the Catholic People’s Party (KN) was founded by Ferdinand Zichy in 1894 to compete with the SNP – the beginnings of a tradition of Christian democracy in the Slovakian party landscape. However, when the KN embraced Hungary’s nationalist policy of assimilation it lost the support of the Slovak Catholic intelligentsia. At the same time, differentiation increased within the SNS, whose national backing was highly heterogeneous in the end of the 19th century. A powerful group surrounding Andrej Hlinka, a cleric, became the talk of the nation, and public criticism of the KN’s chauvinist policies became increasingly sharp. The only unifying element within the SNS was a common desire to strengthen the national consciousness of the Slovaks and to stem the tide of Hungary’s assimilation policy. The foundation of the Slovak People’s Party (SL’S) by Andrej Hlinka in Zilina in 1913 terminated the formation of Christian parties in Slovakia for the time being.After the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, the SL’S became a modern right-wing Catholic-national party which changed its name to Hlinka’s Slovak National Party (HSL’S) in 1925. As the conflict between the church and the state grew more virulent, the party stepped up its demands for autonomy, adopting an anti-communist attitude soon afterwards. In the elections of 1925, the HSL’S was returned as the strongest party at 35 percent of the vote. It joined the government, only to leave it again in 1929. With most of its electoral base in the rural areas, the HSL’S won 63 seats in parliament in 1939. Its chairman, Jozef Tiso, was appointed head of government as well as president. Under his leadership, the party founded a number of organisations such as the Hlinka Guard, which was modelled on the fascist movements in Germany and Italy, and the Hlinka Youth. It was only after the end of Nazism and the Second World War that the Slovakian National Council put a stop to the activities of the party and its organisations.After 1945, it was impossible for a time to found a Catholic party because Czechoslovakia’s first post-war government regarded the Catholic movement as a potential threat to the consolidation of the newly-unified state and an enemy of communism, the latter because of the attitudes adopted by Catholic politicians earlier on. Daunted by the persecution of the church initiated by the regime, many Slovak Catholics abandoned the idea of founding a party with a religious character. Nevertheless, the Catholic movement survived in the form of a catacomb church, ordaining its priests and bishops in secret.Once again, non-communist political groups began to develop when the regime collapsed. Both Czechs and Slovaks formed their ‘public against violence’ movement which was joined by people of highly different political persuasions. In the early 1990s, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) was founded which, led by the Catholic dissident Ján Čarnogursý, breathed new life into the Christian and/or Catholic tradition in Slovakia’s party landscape. However, when the nationalist and populist Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) was formed in 1992 under the leadership of Vladimir Mečiar as a spin-off of the liberal VNP, it became evident that the roots of Catholicism had lost some of their strength in forty years of communist rule. The KDH supported the transition from a command to a market economy in the still-existing Czechoslovakian Federation as well as the reform policies of Václav Klaus, although they were regarded as painful by many. The KDH lost many sympathizers because of this, as well as because of its support for a more powerful role of the individual states within the Federation and the involvement of that process in the European integration of the country.When the Slovakian state became independent in 1993, the conflict between separatists and federalists lost its meaning. At the same time, Mr Mečiar’s increasingly authoritarian style of leadership gave rise to new tensions, as he was ruining the country and robbing it of any chance of integration into the structures of Europe in the near future.In response to Mr Mečiar’s electoral-law bill with which he intended to secure power for his party in permanence, several opposition parties founded the Slovakian Democratic Coalition (SDK) which, composed of highly heterogeneous ideological forces, partly disintegrated in 1998. One of the consequences of its disintegration was the establishment of the Slovakian Christian Union (SDKU) which, unlike the KHD, was conceived as a popular party under the leadership of the prime minister, Mikuláš Dzurinda. Very soon, the party became the moving force of Slovakia’s integration in the West, and the country’s traditional conflict between western and eastern alignment was over.Today, there are three Christian democratic parties in Slovakia, albeit with highly heterogeneous programmes. Still, they all have their own representatives in government, they all are highly personalized, and they all look back on a rich tradition of internal conflict and fragmentation.With a membership of 18,000, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) is Slovakia’s largest Christian democratic party. It is founded on the ideas of Christianity and national identity. The Slovakian Christian Democratic Union (SDKU) numbers more than 5,000 members. Without a basis in the traditions of Slovak Christianity, it is anxious to open itself to a more widespread electoral base and/or to amalgamate Christian and liberal ideas. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), an alliance of three Hungarian parties formed on the basis of Mr Mečiar’s electoral-law bill, represents the third Christian force whose foundation was influenced by the Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement (MKDH).Today, Christian democracy is firmly embedded in Slovakia. One of the reasons for this lies in the special historic role played by the Catholic Church in the formation of the Slovakian nation. Another lies in the fact that three of the conflicts which significantly influenced the formation of all political parties are resolved today – the conflict between communism and anti-communism, the conflict between separatism and federalism, and the conflict between western and eastern alignment. Especially the Christian parties are now called upon to help overcome the last stills-mouldering conflict, the classic ideological conflict between left and right, the Christian parties being those which today harbour mostly the winners rather than the losers of the transformation process.

  • Energy-policy Perspectives in the Czech and Slovak Republics

    In the Czech Republic, it is the Ministry for Industry and Commerce which is responsible for energy policy. According to the Ministry, the country’s power stations – driven by coal, water, wind, nuclear power, and other energy sources – generated a total of more than 83,000GWh in 2003. As the country’s energy needs grew more slowly in the two preceding decades than the generation potential of the energy industry, energy exports could be stepped up.There are three groups of companies supplying the country’s energy market – the ČEZ Group, which comprises five utilities and leads the central European as well as the Czech market; Jihočeská energetika a.s. and Jihomoravská energetika a.s., two companies which form part of E.ON Česká republica a.s. and, therefore, of the Munich E.ON energy group; and Prazská energetika a.s., which supplies Prague, the capital. All industrial energy sources are operated by the ČEZ itself, which owns two nuclear power stations, ten coal-fired power stations, twelve hydroelectric power stations, one wind power station, and a solar-power complex.In the Slovak Republic, energy policy is handled by the Ministry for Economics, which mainly aims to secure a living standard that is comparable to that of the EU member countries. In the period from 1995 to 2003, the Czech GDP expanded by 35.7 percent while energy consumption increased by no more than 6.5 percent, bringing the country a good deal closer towards that goal. In total, the country’s nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectric power stations generated some-what more than 31,000GWh in 2003.Most of the energy in Slovakia is generated by three utilities that sprang from the former state-owned Slovenský energetický podník, namely Slovenské elektrárne a.s., Slovenskâ elektrizačná prenosová sústava a.s., and Tepláren Košice a.s. The country’s energy market, which was comprehensively deregulated by the Dzurinda government in the autumn of 2004, is served by three local distributors, ZSE a.s., SSE a.s., and VSE a.s.At the moment, the infrastructure operated by these enterprises includes 29 hydroelectric power stations, two nuclear power stations, five power stations running on fossil fuels, and a variety of biomes and bigots power stations as well as an array of solar-energy panels measuring well above 50,000 sqm.The future energy policy of the Czech Republic is framed by three pillars – a maximum of independence, security, and reasonable development. Ranking first among the sources of energy are fossil fuels, destined to remain an important pillar in the country’s energy balance until 2030. Ranking next in importance, there is nuclear power, which is to be enhanced further because of the peculiar geographical and geological conditions prevailing in Czechia. The two existing power stations, Dukovany and Temelín, are to be upgraded and modified to conform to international safety standards as a first step. Finally, the Ministry for Industry and Commerce plans to increase the use of renewable energy sources to a considerable extent, with a particular focus on biomass.The Czech Republic is a signatory state of the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in February. If that Protocol should be reformulated and emission-reduction targets based on per-capita emissions before 2011, the country, one of the ten worst environmental polluters in the world, would be in extremely hot water. After all, the remaining industries which form the backbone of the Czech national economy consume a great deal of energy, which the government aims to reduce.The Temelín project and its defence on the international stage enjoy particular political support, which demonstrates that the Prague government firmly intends to keep the country independent in terms of energy policy. The country’s focus on nuclear energy is an investment in the future, the intention being to safeguard Czechia’s competitiveness on the increasingly hard-fought commodity market.Although several oil and gas pipelines run through the Slovak Republic, placing the country in a strategically favourable position, it has hardly any resources of its own in that respect. Therefore, reducing Slovakia’s dependence on fossil-fuel imports is of outstanding importance. The strategy pursued by the government in this regard is four-fold – using nuclear energy, using domestic sources of primary energy, increasing the use of renewable energy sources, and promoting co-generation.The Bratislava government also considers nuclear power the country’s primary source of energy. Thus, the Dzurinda government decided to complete the last two blocks of the nuclear power station at Mochovce, hoping to strike a profitable deal with Western energy utilities by selling the expected generation surplus. On the other hand, there is as yet no answer to the question of how spent fuel rods are to be disposed of.As ever, Slovakia mainly relies on hydroelectric power among the renewable sources of energy. As the country possesses plentiful water resources in the Tatra range and elsewhere, there is quite some potential for increasing its hydroelectric power output. The government mainly pursues four objectives in this context – to safeguard the supply of safe energy, to lower energy consumption, to safeguard independence in energy generation, and to ensure the sustainable development of the energy industry.In the field of environmental protection, the Bratislava government endeavours to lower the emission of greenhouse gases in conformance with the Kyoto Protocol. Its intention is to guide the consumption of primary energy so that gas and nuclear energy increasingly replace liquid and solid fuels in power generation.Both the Czech and the Slovak Republics suffer from the price of oil and gas on the world market. However, Czechia has a good chance of protecting its economy from this development better than other countries in central Europe, such as Germany.The Bratislava government has been pursuing a policy of comprehensive reform for quite some time, in which energy policy is no more than one component. However, if success were to be achieved in this particular area, the entire policy of reform in the country would be given a valuable boost.

  • Russia's Back Yard: The Personality Cult and the Gas Poker Game in Turkmenistan

    The recent dispute over gas between Russia and the Ukraine as well as Turkmenistan’s resignation from the Commonwealth of Independent States showed that the CIS is beginning to disintegrate. The desert state of Turkmenistan, whose president had criticised the organs of the Commonwealth on several previous occasions, now wishes to be nothing more than an associate member of the federation. Moscow’s response was pragmatic: The Kremlin is anxious to replace the CIS with a network of new political and economic relations in which it intends to play the leading role.Turkmenistan occupies a special position among the former Soviet republics in Asia. While president Saparmurat Niyasov intends to reduce Russia’s influence in his country, he is aware of his dependence on Russia’s infrastructure in his efforts to commercializethe enormous reserves of natural gas in his country.Governed according to strict authoritarian principles, Turkmenistan is a country whose society is firmly controlled by Mr Niyasov, who unites virtually all political offices of importance in his person. The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the country’s only party which evolved from the Turkmenian branch of the former CPSU, never encounters anycompetition in elections, and is ruled by Mr Niyasov in the best Stalinist manner.The president himself is a child of the Soviet Union. An orphan who was brought up by relatives, he joined the communist party in 1962 and went to Leningrad to study. From 1976, he headed the Turkmenian section of the CPSU, and the Council of Ministers of the Turkmenian Socialist Soviet Republic from 1985. Mr Niyasov, to whom liberal socialism isan alien idea, merely changed the name of the party after 1991, leaving its structure intact. Communist ideology was replaced by nationalist propaganda, and the government of the state became a blend of Stalinist dictatorship and oriental despotism. From now on, the head of state, Mr Niyasov, allowed himself to be revered as Turkmenbashi, the leader of the Turkoman people.And indeed, the bizarre personality cult surrounding the president is ubiquitous in the desert country. Halk, Vatan, Turkmenbashi (One nation, one country, one Turkoman leader) – this slogan is familiar to all in the country whose capital, Ashgabat, named allits most important institutions after the ,great Saparmurat Turkmenbashi‘. However, as Mr Niyasov believes himself to be a philosopher and teacher as well, he inflicted the maxims of his life on the Turkoman nation under the title of Ruhnama – the incoherentproduct of a confused mind which, however, claims to lead its readers towards physical, mental, and moral health and is placed side by side with the holy scriptures of all religions in the country itself. Replete with historical falsehoods, the book aims, among other things, to create a national Turkoman identity, celebrating the nation as the navel of the world, as a race superior to all other nations – this, at least, is the message of the book, which shows unmistakable traces of a blood-and-soil ideology.Received with condescension in the west at first, the Ruhnama is now beginning to show its fatal impact. Education in Turkmenistan is in ruins; the Russian language has disappeared from the textbooks, and good teaching material in Turkoman cannot befound. The teachings of humanism have been superseded by the Ruhnama, and ideological indoctrination now replaces education in Turkmenistan.Free and independent media are banished from the realm of the Turkmenbashi, whose control of the information flow is almost perfect. As cable television has been discontinued, Turkmenians without a satellite dish can only choose between suffering the hype surrounding the president or leaving their TV set off. As Avdy Kuliyev, a former minister, put it: ‘Properly speaking, Turkmenistan today is no longer a state; it is Niyasov’s private life.’Refusing to permit any criticism of his rule, the president argues instead that his nation is not mature enough for democracy. In reality, however, fundamental rights are trodden underfoot, and ethnic minorities are discriminated against. Officially, the constitutiongrants religious freedom to all Turkmenians, 90 percent of which profess the Sunni version of Islam. On the other hand, the law on the freedom of conscience and religious organisations adopted in 1997 subjects the members of religious communities to rigid controls and drastically restricts them in the practice of their religion.An attack on his person in November 2002, unsuccessful, amateurishly executed, and never entirely cleared up so far, was used by the president as a pretext for launching a relentless persecution campaign. The show trials staged by the regime and the publication of confessions obviously extracted from the alleged assassins by torture were reminiscent of similar show trials staged by Stalin and did nothing to improve the situation of the Turkmenian opposition.Turkmenistan’s natural-gas deposits are the fourth largest in the world. Nevertheless, having no pipelines of its own, the country finds itself constrained to use the Russian system and sell its oil to the Russian Gazprom group and other customers at prices far below those of the world market. It is said that Mr Niyasov personally profited most from the business deals struck with Russia. The country’s revenues cannot be found, and it is supposed that they are stashed away in the president’s private accounts abroad. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan has been striving for greater independence from Russia. Consequently, most of its agreements on traffic and gas-transport projects were concluded with Iran, the only alternative to Russia at the moment: A joint Turkmenian-Iranian pipeline has been in operation since 1997. A contract with Russia was concluded in 2003 in which Turkmenistan undertook to export ist gas to the neighbouring country for 25 years. At first, the deal was celebrated as a victory in Moscow. However, when Mr Niyasov increased the sales price the next year, a new agreement was needed which occasioned no joy in the Kremlin because it contained Mr Niyasov’s renunciation of the treaty on dual citizenship.Despite his successes, Mr Niyasov endeavours to circumvent Russia in the infrastructure issue. While plans to build a pipeline through Afghanistan only exist on paper so far, a meeting of Turkmenian, Afghan, and Pakistani politicians recently cast the plans for a trans-Afghan pipeline into more concrete shape; construction is scheduled to begin in the near future.Turkmenistan certainly seeks to cooperate with other states in the economic field, but isolation is the order of the day in the political arena. Thus, Mr Niyasov announced his intention to maintain ‘perpetual neutrality’ in all questions of foreign policy, an attitude that was officially recognized even by the United Nations in 1995.The future of the president himself appears shrouded in mystery. While it is true that Mr Niyasov declared his intention to surrender his office in 2009 in an address before the National Council in 2003, it is hardly likely that the Turkmenbashi will give up power in actual fact. Remarkably, Mr Niyasov is anything but unpopular among the Turkmenian people. One of the reasons for this may be that those aged 20 or 30 today have never known any other president, while another may be the fact that the Ruhnama is meanwhile bearing fruit.On the international stage, Mr Niyasov was not taken seriously for a long time. He was regarded as an eccentric with a bizarre personality cult who appeared comical rather than dangerous. Because of the country’s enormous gas deposits and the mystery surrounding the future of its regime, the global community criticized Mr Niyasov’s dictatorship in terms that were fairly restrained for a long time. Should he die, the question of his succession will probably be settled within the party on the Chinese model, particularlyas no so-called crown princes have appeared in public so far.Because of the general lack of a prominent opposition movement, the moderate influence of Islam, and the subordinate role of the military and the secret service, Turkmenistan appeared and still appears a politically stable country. Yet the desert state is one of the key transit countries for the drug traffic, and respect for fundamental rights is anything but assured. As the European Development Bank recently pointed out, Mr Niyasov had better not hope for mitigating circumstances. Which course the future development of Turkmenistan will take, and whether international pressure on president Niyasov will increase, remains to be seen. The country possesses attractive gas deposits, there is no potential threat from nuclear weapons emanating from it, and its geopolitical position vis-à-vis Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan is regarded as valuable. Therefore, Turkmenistan still offers fertile ground fora dictatorship to thrive without much interference.

  • Transformation Processes in the Arab World – the Case of Egypt

    Demokratiedefizite und Reformimpulse

    The states of Middle East and North Africa (‘MENA states’) are still struggling for the recognition already accorded to the sub-Saharan states in transformation research. One of the reasons for this is Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations in which he categorically proposes that Islam is incompatible with democracy.The attacks of September 11, 2001 unexpectedly put the spotlight on Huntington’s theory, focusing the interest of the global public on the Islamic world and giving rise to the question whether Islamic societies could be democratized at all. Perennial marginalization of the MENA region in global politics has its own price that is now being paid by the population of war- and terror-ravaged Iraq.Today, there are many who regard the theory that Islamic states are incapable of implementing democracy as disproven. In their opinion, there is reason to hope that democracy might take root in Islamic countries, as it did in certain Catholic states, such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal which, believed to be largely impervious to democracy as late as the 19th century, are now rightly regarded as shining examples of a successful transition to just that form of government.Transition research distinguishes four ideal types of political transition: Those that are initiated by the ruling authoritarian system, by a pact between the forces of reform and moderate opposition forces, by an overthrow of the regime, or by re-establishing the state.In the Arab Republic of Egypt, signs have been indicating for some time that its head of state, Hosni Mubarak, is prepared to adopt reforms. If these should be successful, the country’s transition to democracy might make it a role model for the entire region. In this context, it is interesting to take a look at Egypt’s legal framework conditions. It would make sense to base such a review on seven criteria, namely elected representatives, free elections, the universal right to vote and stand for election, and the freedom of opinion, information, and association. The transition researcher Robert A. Dahl developed this catalogue as the smallest common denominator describing the institutional guarantees that permit designating a system under investigation as ‘democratic’.‘Elected representatives’: The Egyptian constitution empowers the president of the Republic to appoint and dismiss the head of the Council of Ministers and his deputies as well as the cabinet ministers and their deputies. Instead of being elected by Parliament, therefore, the government is appointed by the president of the state. ‘Free elections’: Members of the National Assembly are elected by direct, secret, and universal ballot in elections that take place regularly. However, the text of the constitution itself makes no mention of the word ‘free’, and indeed, there is no way of ensuring that elections cannot be rigged. ‘Universal right to vote’: All men and women aged 18 and over are entitled to vote. ‘Universal right to stand for election’: Egypt’s Parliament is elected by direct, secret, and universal ballot, and all citizens are entitled to stand for election. ‘Freedom of opinion’: Freedom of opinion is guaranteed in the constitution, and self-criticism is even believed to benefit the security of the fatherland. While censorship and sanctions against journalists and the media are admissible only in a state of emergency, this self-same state of emergency has been prevailing in Egypt ever since 1981, obliterating the freedom of opinion and the freedom of the press.‘Freedom of information’: Although this is guaranteed in the constitution, observations indicate that free access to information is being restricted increasingly. ‘Freedom of association’: The citizens of the country are generally permitted to form associations unless their activities run contrary to the societal order, are conducted in secret, or are military in character. A glance at the legal and factual situation of the political parties in Egypt shows that, on the bottom line, true freedom of association is nothing but a theory.Before the law was changed in 2005, political parties had to conform to some harsh requirements: recognising the Sharia as a source of legislation, respecting the revolutionary principles of 1952 and1971, and recognizing the principle of national unity, social peace, and a socialist system.While the law of 2005 permits party programmes to oppose these criteria, they have to be distinct from the programmes of other parties. Decisions about the admission of political parties are made by the party committee, a body composed of the chairman of the Shura council, the speaker of the House, and a number of former presiding judges appointed by the president. The same body is responsible for monitoring the activities of the registered parties, so that any internal wrangling about the composition of the executive may lead to the temporary cancellation of all the activities of the party concerned. This is certainly not useful for the process of democratization in Egypt.Established only recently, the party tribunal is the last instance to which parties whose application for admission has been rejected by the administrative court may appeal. However, there is no appeal from any decision taken by the party tribunal, whose dependence on the executive power constitutes, according to some jurists, an infringement of the principles of power separation and judicial independence. Both the party committee and the party tribunal are ‘quasi-governmental institutions’, the consequence being that it is the executive power which decides what parties are to be admitted.The Arab Republic of Egypt is headed by its president, Mr Mubarak. Together with the council of ministers, he determines the policies of the state, and it is he who appoints and dismisses the prime minister, the members of the council of ministers, and the under-secretaries of state. He is empowered to proclaim a state of emergency and transfer proceedings from civilian to military courts. In other words: The government of the state lies in the hands of its president. According to the constitution, legislative authority rests with the National Assembly, the government, and the president. As a general rule, however, any laws proposed by the president will be passed by Parliament without debate. Furthermore, Parliament may be dissolved by presidential referendum – yet another indicator of its weakness.Next to a constitutional and an administrative jurisdiction, Egypt has a council of state, an independent judiciary under the Minister of Justice, and military and/or special tribunals. The latter category includes the value tribunal and the state-security courts. There is no appeal whatsoever from the rulings of the value tribunal. Together with the president’s right to transfer civilian proceedings to military courts, this places civilians in a sphere that is outside the law, a grave infringement of civil liberties in Egypt.As this analysis shows, Egypt conforms only in a limited way to the criteria specified by Robert A. Dahl. While both the election of representatives and the right to stand for election are assured, free elections, the right to vote, and freedom of information are out of the question. Similarly, both the freedom of association and the liberty of the political parties give rise to some concern. Lastly, there is a regrettable lack of respect for the freedom of opinion, the independence of the judiciary, and the separation of powers.Egypt stands in need of a new democratic constitution, which should pay attention to the modalities laid down in the electoral laws. The process by which parties are admitted needs to be revised, for additional parties, though small, might offer alternative political concepts to the voters. Furthermore, independent legitimation should be stipulated for both Parliament and the government.Finally, relations between the state and religion need to be redefined in a manner which reflects the profound religiousness of the Arab population. While some believe that it would be appropriate to separate state and religion categorically, this would require a lengthy process of societal transformation which, as past experience in Catholic societies suggests, cannot be compelled.The Egyptian opposition has been calling for reforms for years. However, it lacks the power to push through its demands. It would be important to create conditions under which a gradual transition to democracy would appear the most reasonable solution to the regime itself. International pressure might contribute towards creating just such conditions in Egypt.The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq is not the only event which teaches us that ad-hoc democratization in the MENA region is out of the question. This goal could be approached, if at all, only with patience, sensitivity, and long-term commitment. As the Egyptian example shows, this task is of such diversity and complexity that it should not be undertaken lightly.

  • The Difficulties of Consolidation. Guatemala's Internal Conflicts Are Stumbling Blocks on the Way to Democracy

    When the tropical storm ‘Stan’ devastated Central America and Guatemala in October 2005, people at home and abroad showed great solidarity with the suffering population. Only a few months later, however, precious little remains; Guatemalan society has returned to normality, and you would look in vain for any sign of solidarity and responsibility on the part of the political sphere or the state, to say nothing of the wealthy citizens of the country.In this Central American country with its population of 13 million, the rift between rich and poor gapes wider than anywhere else in the world. Because of this, as well as because of the weakness of the democratic institutions, the disastrous level of public education, and the persistence of the factors that caused the 36-year civil war, crime and corruption form the key evils of Guatemala. With presidential and congressional elections scheduled for 2007, the country is last in line among the democracies of Latin America.56.2 percent of the Guatemalan population live in poverty and 16 percent in extreme poverty. On the human development index of the World Bank, Guatemala ranks 117th on a scale of 177, with only Haiti occupying a lower rank among the American states. 56 percent of the arable land belongs to two percent of the farms, while 48 percent of the farms share three percent of the land among themselves. Most of the land and the means of production belong to a small but extremely powerful upper crust. While staple foods such as maize, beans, and rice are cheap, wage levels in the country are extremely low, and vegetables, milk, and meat are often more expensive than in Europe.Another characteristic of Guatemala is the contrast between the indigenous Maya, who are strongly marginalized although they represent the majority of the population, and the mestizos and/or ladinos of Spanish extraction.With an average of seven to nine years of schooling, the Guatemalan education level is low. The country’s illiteracy rate is the second highest in Latin America, topped only by Haiti. Every year, 35,000 Guatemalans celebrate their 35th birthday without being able to read or write. More than 40 percent of the population are aged 15 and under, and 15 percent of the women aged 15 to 19 have their own children.Democracy is regarded with scepticism by all Guatemalans. After its reintroduction 1986, it failed to meet the people’s expectations. Governmental institutions are weak because the parties and persons that back them up are weak. Apart from the Democracia Cristiana Guatemalteca, which was founded fifty years ago and is now led by Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, political parties lack continuity, programmatical substance, and the strength to integrate. Instead, they are often used by politicians as springboards to realize their personal ambitions. Party funding is similarly problematical. To throw some light into the darkness, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) was recently instituted as a party-funding watchdog.Headed by Oscar Berger, a member of the entre-preneurial class, Guatemala’s current government has so far given no clear indications of any perspective for a ‘national project’.At the same time, a ray of hope comes from the new electoral and party legislation which endeavours to promote the institutionalization of the political parties and put an end to their vacillations. Demonstrating a minimum membership is the most difficult hurdle which the parties will have to jump before March 2006. According to the press, the only parties that now appear able to do so are the Democracia Cristiana, the FRG, the PAN, the PSN, and the DIA. To secure their roots among the population, the parties must rely on civic commitment which, however, is hardly likely to prosper if the current practice of parties being bought outright by large donors should continue.One step forward on the way towards democratic consolidation was taken when the strength of the armed forces was reduced from around 50,000 to 15,000 troops, as provided in the peace treaty of 1996. On the other hand, the Guatemalan armed forces, weighed down as they are by the burden inherited from the bloody civil war, in which at least 100,000 people died and a million were driven from their homes, yet have to find and endorse their role in a democracy. While it is certain now that the military is no longer above the law, as it used to be, neither the government nor the political parties nor civil society itself have so far succeeded in reformulating its mission in a positive way. Under Oscar Berger, some modest progress has also been achieved in the field of journalism. Whereas the press was characterized as ,unfree‘ by Freedom House before 2005, it is today rated as ,partially free‘. Even so, violence and intimidation are commonly used against obnoxious journalists, who are also seriously threatened by paramilitary groups, drug dealers, and corrupt policemen. Another cause for concern is the fact that most print media are owned by a handful of rich financiers, so that genuine freedom of opinion appears largely out of the question.The judiciary also benefits from certain improvements. The Berger government is anxious to strengthen the country’s institutions and suppress corruption sustainably. One case in point is the ongoing process for the extradition of Mr Portillo, Guatemala’s former president who now lives in Mexico, and who is charged with embezzlement of public funds. Reports about regress come from the front against drug trafficking and violent crime. Public security deteriorated massively under Mr Berger and the incidence of violent crime soared, leading to an atmosphere of constant danger and general suspicion.Car thefts, drug smuggling, and bus raids are common, and everyday life in the Central American country is marked by kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder. The maras, youth gangs which by now constitute the main threat against the population of numerous cities in various Central American countries, deserve special mention in this context. In Guatemala City, for instance, two hostile factions, the Mara salvatrucha and the Mara 18, terrorize the quarters of the city. A disgusting ritual observed by many maras are initiation rites which require the murder of an innocent person by a novice wishing to be adopted by the gang. Rituals of this kind as well as the structure of the gangs themselves probably result from migration, alcoholism, and the misery of the civil war. Uprooted young people adopt these gangs as ersatz families, many of which are supposed to be backed up by string-pullers from organized crime and the drug mafia.Guatemala’s problems are both complex and grave, and it is even possible that power may be taken over by populists of the Hugo Chávez ilk unless speedy steps are taken to build stable and efficient public institutions with a clear political vision. At all events, the soil appears ready to receive the populist seed, particularly as the fundamental needs of the population were not satisfied even after the end of the civil war.Against this background, the problems which international cooperation must solve appear clearly outlined. The point is to strengthen those institutions that show a recognizable trend towards democracy. Another point is to promote an educational policy, based on the principle of universal equality, which aims to integrate the indigenous majority of the population. For the conflicts of the past can be overcome only if justice is established in society.

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Dr. Gerhard Wahlers



Benjamin Gaul

Benjamin Gaul

Head of the Department International Reports and Communication +49 30 26996 3584

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