Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Showing posts for "Elections"

Weekend Reading: Boutef Again, Bringing Democracy Back to Turkey, and Hep-C in Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
Members of a local dance troupe perform during a campaign rally for current Algerian President and candidate in the forthcoming presidential election, Abdelaziz Bouteflik, in Ain Ouassara southwest of Algiers April 10, 2014 (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters). Members of a local dance troupe perform during a campaign rally for current Algerian President and candidate in the forthcoming presidential election, Abdelaziz Bouteflik, in Ain Ouassara southwest of Algiers April 10, 2014 (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters).

Alexis Artaud de La Ferrière examines how Algeria’s elections will influence regional politics, especially those in Tunisia.

The Turkish citizen journalism group “140journos” is trying to use technology to bring democracy back to Turkey, writes Burcu Baykurt for Jadaliyya. Read more »

Turkey: Orientalists’ Delight

by Steven A. Cook
The sun sets over the Ottoman-era Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul January 8, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). The sun sets over the Ottoman-era Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul January 8, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

There has been a lot of commentary and speculation about what is likely to happen in Turkey now that the country is past the March 30 municipal elections.  The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) resounding tally—44 percent of voters chose the party’s candidates—has renewed questions whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will seek the presidency, about the disposition of the armed forces in Turkish society, and concerning the future of the Gulen movement.  There are also significant accusations of electoral fraud, especially in Ankara.  I have thoughts on all of these issues, but for the moment I will leave them to others.  All the recent attention lavished on Turkey as a result of last summer’s Gezi Park protests, the corruption scandal that broke last December, and now the municipal elections has me ruminating on how to write about the country. This may seem like excessive navel gazing to some, but the way in which analysts and journalists write about other countries (and their own) can have powerful political effects.  Ideas and images can become rooted and shape the way people view a given government or society.  The image of the “Terrible Turk,” for example, is a remnant of the late 15th century that lives on. Read more »

Weekend Reading: No Way to Defeat Takfiris, Handicapping Turkey’s Elections, and Syria’s borders.

by Steven A. Cook
Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wave Turkish and AK Party (AKP) flags during an election rally in Istanbul March 23, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wave Turkish and AK Party (AKP) flags during an election rally in Istanbul March 23, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Nader Bakkar says that harsh punishment, such as the recent wave of death sentences on Muslim Brotherhood members, is no way to combat radical takfiri ideology. Read more »

Man in the Middle

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (C) is applauded by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) and his ministers as he arrives to address the Turkish Parliament (Umit Bektas /Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (C) is applauded by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) and his ministers as he arrives to address the Turkish Parliament (Umit Bektas /Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignAffairs.com on Thursday, March 27, 2014. 

Many observers, both in Turkey and abroad, believe that this is Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s moment to shine. In recent months, Turkey’s democracy has careened wildly off its democratic path, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resorted to increasingly authoritarian measures — including a ban on access to Twitter and YouTube — to suppress what he believes is an existential threat posed by his onetime ally Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic Turkish cleric who has followers in positions of influence throughout the government. Erdogan seems intent on trying to excise Gulenists from Turkish society entirely. Erdogan’s paranoia has also moved the AKP toward becoming an authoritarian cult of personality. Read more »

Sisi 2014!

by Steven A. Cook
A supporter of Egypt's  General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi holds a poster with Sisi's image in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). A supporter of Egypt's General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi holds a poster with Sisi's image in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hung up his military uniform today, launching a process that will inevitably end in his election as Egypt’s next president. Following a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Sisi declared that he has retired from the army and would enter the political arena. ”I humbly announce my intention to run for the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt,” he said in colloquial Arabic in a speech aired on state television. “I consider myself — as I have always been — a soldier dedicated to serve the nation, in any position ordered by the people.” Read more »

Why is Sami Enan Running for President?

by Steven A. Cook
Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (R), former head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), with his former Chief of Staff Sami Enan (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (R), former head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), with his former Chief of Staff Sami Enan (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

On February 17, Lieutenant-General Sami Enan, Egypt’s former armed forces chief-of-staff, announced that he would be running for president. One can be forgiven for asking: Why?  Enan’s candidacy seems impractical and impracticable. Based on what is known publicly, which actually is not very much, it is widely assumed that Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will be the military’s candidate.  It seems hard to imagine that if al-Sisi runs, he would have much trouble winning.  Despite the crude propaganda in the form of al-Sisi sweets, sandwiches, pajamas, posters, t-shirts, and odes to the man, there are many Egyptians who seem inclined—at this moment—to want the Field Marshal’s firm hand.  Enan, whose sterling reputation was tarnished during the 18 months he was the second-in-command of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, does not have the kind of broad appeal of al-Sisi.  So what is going on?  Why does Sami Enan want to be the president?  As with everything in Egypt, Enan’s candidacy may (or may not) be a bit more complicated than a man with an ambition to lead a great country back from the brink. Read more »

Do Not Run, al-Sisi…Do Not Run

by Steven A. Cook
Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al Sisi (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al Sisi (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Gamal Mubarak or Omar Suleiman?  Omar Suleiman or Gamal Mubarak?  Not too long ago this was what many Egyptians and virtually any westerner  who had an interest in Egypt  were asking.   Everyone had an answer based on the Cairo rumor mill, multiple dodgy sources like a neighbor who revealed Hosni Mubarak’s inner most thoughts based on what he had heard from his wife’s uncle who was friends with a journalist with close ties to the presidency, and sheer creativity.  We are back at it again, but this time is obviously not about Omar Pasha who died suddenly in the summer of 2012 nor Gamal who continues to languish in Tora prison, waiting for appeals to be heard in various corruption cases.  No, now everyone is asking “Will he or won’t he?”  The “he” is, of course, Major-General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man behind the July 3 coup d’état and apparently the object of much adoration among various segments of the Egyptian population and the question is whether he will run for president.  It seems that every day there is some new indication—imagined or otherwise—that the general will run. Read more »

Egypt’s Nexus of Power

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

My dear friend, Nervana Mahmoud, an Egyptian-born doctor in the UKis a keen observer of Egyptian politics.  Her article below discusses power dynamics among Egypt’s principal political actors and how those dynamics might play out in the next presidential elections there. Enjoy… Read more »