This article was originally published by Arab Centre Washington DC and is republished with their permission from http://arabcenterdc.org/policy_analyses/has-saudi-arabia-become-a-monarchy-of-fear/ 

By Daniel Brumberg

The murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi reminded Americans that the United States remains aligned with Arab leaders who regularly repress, imprison, and kill opponents for expressing their political views. Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2 was an especially gruesome crime. To be sure, Washington has often backed regimes that employ lethal violence on a far grander scale. Egypt’s current president, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, took power in a July 2013 military coup that ended the country’s brief and tumultuous democratic experiment. Less than a month later, Egyptian security forces slaughtered some 800 civilian protesters in Rabaa Square. Sisi’s government, backed by the judiciary, then proceeded to jail tens of thousands of Egyptians on vague or trumped-up charges. Yet President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, did not protest and even praised Sisi and his allies for “restoring democracy.” From a strictly moral point of view, then, was Kerry’s statement worse than President Donald Trump’s assertion that Khashoggi’s killing was probably the work of “rogue killers”? This assertion was taken up by Saudi leaders who proceeded to dismissalleged conspirators from their positions and imprison other collaborators—acts that are nevertheless seen by the world as only a cover-up for perfidious behavior by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (via Kremlin)

By Avram Reisman

At a time when democracy is in recession and facing new challenges, it is worth looking back on essential literature written when democratic change was similarly challenged by authoritarian powers. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, by Guillermo O’Donnell and Phillippe Schmitter, was a paradigmatic publication that set parameters and expectations for democratic transitions in U.S. policy and for democratic opposition groups in many parts of the world. Looking with a contemporary critical lens, it’s clear the sands of time have eroded the model’s validity. However, with some adaptation, the model provides some direction for new international landscape.

By Matison Hearn-Desautels

Bret Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has provoked a nationwide dispute over the state of American democracy, partisanship, and the lack of accountability for men in power accused of sexual assault and other sex-related criminal acts. His confirmation on Saturday solidified a conservative majority in the Supreme Court for years to come. The 5-4 majority could determine the outcomes of key juridical matters ranging from a possible indictment of the President, to a potential repeal of Roe versus Wade.

The Senate Judiciary Committee moved to confirm Kavanaugh on Friday following a week-long FBI investigation into the allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while the two were in high school.

By Frank Vogl

Corruption – the abuse of public office for private gain – rages across most countries and for every crime of corruption there is a victim – now the number of victims is multiplying.

This should not have been the case – following World War Two we were promised a better world. After the suffering of tens of millions of people in two world wars, the leaders of the new United Nations felt compelled on December 10, 1948, to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the most important public statement made in my lifetime. It is an aspirational document that calls on the governments of all to do good.

As we approach the 70thanniversary of that U.N. action we need to be still bolder in recognizing that its objectives have been insufficiently attained. Yes, more people have been lifted out of poverty in these last 70 years than in all of history. Yes, more people in more countries than ever before participate in elections, enjoy freedom of speech and assembly. And, it is also true that more people currently enjoy greater wealth than could previously have been imagined.

By Ben Mindes

Election administration in America is governed not by one singular body, as is typical in almost every country around the world, but by nearly 10,000 local jurisdictions, each with their own rules and regulations. Local elections are often underfunded and rely on volunteer poll workers who often receive minimal training on complex election procedures. Assessments of electoral administration quality are largely based off election administrators themselves or anecdotal observation efforts.

Therefore, when allegations of election fraud surfaced in the aftermath of the recent special elections in Alabama, the only recourse available to determine whether such claims were justified was to ask the administrators themselves.

Mahathir Mohamad, George Wallace, and the 2018 Malaysian election.

Pictured: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (center), the once-and-future Malaysian Prime Minister greets protestors at an anti-corruption rally in 2016. Photo credit: Reuters.

By Grayson Lewis

Almost no one predicted the 2018 Malaysian election to turn out the way it did. Before the polls closed on the evening of May 9th, the nation’s quasi-authoritarian hybrid regime was ready to almost reflexively claim another victory for its conservative, Malay-chauvinistmandate. This dominant alliance of ethnically-based political parties that had governed the Southeast Asian nation for three generations kept its vice grip on power through some of the most effective methods available: patronage, bribery, media control, and even occasional violence. Much like Mexico in 2000, many knew that the incumbent regime was in for the toughest election it had yet faced, yet practically every clear-eyed observer was sure that the government would weather the storm as it always had done. When it became evident in the early hours of May 10th that the old order had crumbled at the ballot-box overnight, hardly anyone in Malaysia, not the government, the newly elected opposition, or any citizen who had cast a vote truly fathomed the extent of the democratic revolution they had suddenly witnessed in a mere 24 hours.

By Kwadwo A. Boateng

African states have been struggling to democratize for decades, and Zimbabwe was no exception. Only a quarter of African states in 2012 have democratized, while 43% were autocracy, and the rest were hybrid regimes. Among multiple underlying reasons for failure to democratize was the absence of free and fair election, which reflects the principle of democracy by allowing legitimate transfer of authority and regime change. However, Zimbabwe has not seen transfer of power for more than thirty years – allowing competitive authoritarianism to thrive – due to the manipulation of election that imposed great obstacles to conducting a democratic election. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new President, must understand this fundamental aspect of democratic society, and thereby, end his predecessor’s competitive authoritarianism and political violence.

Photo: Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan leads “Take a Step, Reject Serzh” campaign. (Photo by Yerevantsi via Wikimedia)

By Aleksandra Zaytseva

A day before “Victory Day”, on May 8th, former newspaper editor, MP, and political prisoner, Nikol Pashinyan, was elected interim Prime Minister of Armenia, 59-to-42, in a historic exchange of power. This peaceful cessation of power by those who sought to keep it indefinitely, especially in a former Soviet republic, is undeniably an event to be celebrated. “Your victory is not that I was elected Prime Minister; your victory is that you decided who should be Prime Minister,” Pashinyan said. It is widely lauded as a new velvet revolution with many public figures sending public congratulations. Yet, many Eurasia watchers are uneasy.

By Yufei Zhang.

A Bill Facing Polarization

On December 5th, 2017, Taiwan’s legislature passed a bill of transitional justice, which is following a set of similar policies issued by the governing party—DPP. According to the law, a powerful committee, under the Premier, will be established to investigate thoroughly and, then, re-evaluate Taiwan’s authoritarian past, which covers the end of WWII to the early 1990s. The committee’s primary and controversial missions include opening private archives, re-naming hundreds of streets and institutions after authoritarian figures, and acquiring assets owned by the once-ruling party in the authoritarian period, which, nowadays, is the main opposition party—KMT.