The Syrian Opposition Meeting in Cairo: One Small Step

Free Syrian Army rebels take up positions along an embankment on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Maraat al-Numan, Syria. Image: FreedomHouse/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Middle East Institute on 31 January, 2015.

Around 100 Syrian opposition figures recently concluded a conference in Cairo. The meeting was noteworthy for two reasons. It signaled Cairo’s cautious but unmistakable entry into the Syrian minefield, and it marks the still-fragmented opposition’s first careful steps in the direction of a compromise with the Assad regime.

President Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi’s government is determined to rehabilitate Egypt’s pan-Arab image and to restore an Egyptian role in Arab affairs—in Syria and elsewhere. “Egypt,” explains one close observer of the diplomatic efforts on Syria, “is trying to replace Istanbul as the capital of the opposition.”[i] » More

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Turkey’s Failed Bureaucratic Coup

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) and Fethullah Gülen. Photo: Hayatin Kendisi Burada/Picasa.

ANKARA – Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intensified his government’s response to the corruption investigations that have been roiling the country since December, restructuring the leadership of the judiciary and police. But it would be a mistake to view this as a fight between the executive and the judiciary, or as an attempt to cover up charges that have led to the resignation of three ministers. What is at issue is the law-enforcement authorities’ independence and impartiality. Indeed, amid charges of fabricated evidence, Erdoğan now says that he is not opposed to retrials for senior military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow his government.

The recent developments reflect the widening rift between Erdoğan’s government and the Gülen movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Islamic preacher currently residing near Philadelphia. The Gülen movement was an important backer of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its efforts to establish civilian control over the military during the AKP’s first two terms in office. Now, however, the movement appears to have been plotting a coup of its own. » More

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Zambian Opposition Parties Lobby for Suspension from the Commonwealth

President Sata as a victim of the Public Order Act when he was an opposition leader.

President Sata as a victim of the Public Order Act when he was an opposition leader himself. Picture courtesy of Zambian watchdog.

Zambia’s opposition parties have called upon the Commonwealth to suspend the country amid claims of a deteriorating political environment. They accuse Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) government of using the Public Order Act to severely curtail opposition party activities. Ironically, the Public Order Act was a piece of legislation that the Zambian President had to contend with as an opposition leader. However, since coming to power, he has stated that he has now “fallen in love” with the Act.

Two opposition leaders – the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD)’s Nevers Mumba and United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Hakainde Hichilema – are currently on trial for various political offences covered by Public Order Act. Mumba and Hichilema also attended the recent gathering of opposition leaders in South Africa – known collectively as the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) – that made the demand for Zambia’s suspension from the Commonwealth. » More

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Why Vote-Rigging in Ukraine’s Elections Shouldn’t Go Unpunished

Protesters in Kyiv during the Orange Revolution of 2004. Photo by Veronica Khokhlova

The October 28, 2012 parliamentary elections in Ukraine are likely to be best-remembered for widespread protest voting, seemingly endless vote counting in disputed voting districts, allegations of vote-rigging and a rather lackluster public protest in Kyiv. However, an abundance of citizen media reports, live online broadcasts and other monitoring initiatives is what makes this election – not to mention violations that occurred before, during and after the vote – memorable. As Ukrainska Pravda journalist Kateryna Avramchuk commented via Twitter on the situation at one of the contested voting districts:

There’s a live broadcast of our votes being stolen [...] And you expect people not to be apolitical after that? » More

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Uniting Syria

Syrian protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Cairo

Syrian protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Cairo. Photo: Maggie Osama/flickr.

BERLIN – Syrian opposition activists regularly express disappointment with the level of international support that they receive. Although the last meeting of the so-called “Friends of Syria” (a group of countries that convenes periodically to discuss Syria’s situation outside of the United Nations Security Council) brought more financial aid, the degree of genuine outside commitment to their cause remains questionable.

The United States, the European Union, Turkey, and most Arab countries agree that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is no longer legitimate. They have intensified sanctions against the government, and have provided different kinds of support to opposition groups. Some states have delivered automatic weapons, ammunition, and rocket-propelled grenades. But arms deliveries have dried up, and the rebels’ pleas for anti-aircraft weapons remain unanswered. » More

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