Friday, December 15, 2006

UAE's Slow Reform

In a sign of how underwhelming I find the UAE's "move" toward political reform, I didn't even realize the "elections" were tomorrow until I read this piece on them by Amal Hashim. He offers an explanation for why the government is moving so slowly:
"Part of the UAE’s caution is attributable to a fear of Islamist movements, whose absence from the appointed electoral board—which included representatives from other political and intellectual trends—was conspicuous. This exaggerated fear is unjustified, however, as the UAE is about the only country in the Peninsula in which such movements do not represent a problem. In comparison with Kuwait, Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia, Emirati religious movements have historically maintained good relations with the ruling authority. Their exclusion from the current electoral experiment may backfire in the end, leading to stronger popular support for such movements and deteriorating relations with the government.

"Apart from concern about Islamists, the ultimate explanation for the UAE’s ultra-cautious political experiment is simply that the citizenry will go along with it. So far there are no organized political forces capable of exercising pressure. UAE authorities still can rely on the country’s impressive economic and developmental achievements, a degree of wealth distribution, and unofficial channels of communication between citizens and government officials in order to maintain stability and manage calls for change.

"UAE officials describe the current political stage as transitional and have suggested they will hold direct elections for more (though probably not all) members of the FNC in four years. If all goes smoothly they might well deliver, but if for any reason—terrorism in the UAE or the Gulf, or greater tension between the United States and Iran, for example—they decide not to, they are unlikely to face objections from the country’s quiescent citizenry. There are also no serious demands to increase the powers of the FNC, which are extremely modest and expected to remain so for the present."


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