Bye bye Arab Spring, hello election apathy

Published January 27th, 2013 - 12:04 GMT

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Algeria elections
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Image 1 of 8: Local elections are not the most exciting events in the world but when you’re “hoping” for the exact same turnout as pre-Arab Spring levels, you know you’re in trouble. In Algeria, no upsets and no real opposition kept voters out of the polling stations.

Algerian elections
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Image 1 of 8: It was a case of who could be the sorest loser in Algeria when voters went to the polls in November. Opposition parties whined when they lost out, while the government tried to fix the results. Algerians rolled their proverbial eyes.

Kuwait elections
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Image 1 of 8: Kuwait’s Emir decided more of the same was what his country really needed, when he re-appointed the same prime minister in December. Never mind the protests, this “democracy” wasn’t going to fix it, even if it was broke.

Kuwait elections
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Image 1 of 8: With virtually all the opposition deciding to boycott and protestors’ calls for reform being ignored, Kuwaitis stayed away from the polling stations. Shias were the surprise victors although only by a process of elimination.

Jordan elections
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Image 1 of 8: When Jordan’s main opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, made claims of mass fraud, locals sighed. But with at least three candidates in prison for vote buying, the allegations weren’t exactly baseless.

Jordan elections
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Image 1 of 8: In the “democratic” Kingdom more of the same old tribal faces were the old option for most Jordanian voters. Despite an estimated 70% of locals coming from Palestine, Palestinian-origin areas stayed away from the Jordanian-dominated polls.

Israel elections
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Image 1 of 8: Pre-Israeli election, commentators had a momentary burst of excitement when they thought new party, Jewish Home, might get in. But they were soon to be disappointed when old PM Netanyahu scraped through. Again.

Israel elections
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Image 1 of 8: With a very narrow victory and a system of proportional representation, new and old Israeli PM, Binyamin Netanyahu, was forced to form a coalition of parties with totally opposing views. Israelis face a government with little chance of pushing through anything.

It is January 2011 and a wave of optimism is hitting the region as Tunisian dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, is ousted from his throne. The people’s pro-democracy demonstrations have taken over and the old tyrannical dinosaurs of Egypt and Libya are quick to follow.

But there is no chance of democracy without the post-revolutionary election and sadly for the rest of the Arab world, not all elections are made equal.

So while the Arab Spring nations were racing to the polling booths to show their support for a new world order, the rest of the Middle East was staying at home.

With the prospect of more of the same, an opposition boycott and allegations of fraud en masse, why should these Arabs rush to cast their ballot?

Governments in Kuwait, Algeria and even Israel, have been cheerfully ignoring their electorate for years, hoping that turnout might top 40% and re-appointing the same old leaders.

We take a look at the other side of the Arab Spring, in a region where elections are often going virtually unnoticed.



Can the region’s revolutionary struggle still find its way into the democratic battleground or will Arab Spring fever simply not get converted into election fervor?

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