Democracy and Judicial Independence in the Arab World

by Adil Haque

TIME magazine has a nice recap of the successes and setbacks of pro-democracy movements in Arab countries over the last year. In news which will hopefully delight Opinio readers, distinguished comparative law professor Chibli Mallat is running for the Lebanese presidency in a campaign some call symbolic but which he insists is entirely serious.

The article focusses on Egypt’s Revolt of the Judges, describing recent protests supporting judicial independence and their often brutal suppression by the government. While the youth of Egypt are marching and bleeding for judicial immunity from criminal prosecution, South Dakota is considering opening judges up to private lawsuits. I guess the grass is always greener . . . .

Some of the most dissappointing news comes from Jordan, where King Abdullah’s bold promises for political reform have largely failed to materialize. Probably the most charitable explanation of Jordan’s democratic stagnation is that King Abdullah feels embattled due to regional instability spilling across the country’s borders, the continued strength of the mukhabarat security services, and projections that parliamentary elections will sweep religious conservatives into power. Hopefully Jordan’s continuing economic resurgence will translate into political reform.

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