No Eid joy in Syria

While Libyans celebrate Eid in high spirits, Syrians still endure a regime that has learned nothing, an Arabic-language columnist writes. Other topics today: Algeria the Maghreb laggard; the FNC elections; and the rebuilding of Libya.

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Qaddafi's fall sends a warning to Syria

Libyans are celebrating Eid in high spirits, since their significant accomplishments have brought them closer to revolutionary triumph, but the Syrian people have nothing to celebrate, columnist Othman Mirghani wrote in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

In fact, Bashar Al Assad's forces are pressing ahead with their lethal clampdown on protesters.

The success of the Libyan uprising in the face of the barbarity of Col Muammar Qaddafi's forces - acting on their leader's televised vow to "crush all the rats" - sends a strong message to Damascus.

"If the Syrian regime was hoping to see repression and the use of force put an end to the Libyan uprising, the reality on the ground must come as a big disappointment," the writer said.

Still, strong as that message from the Libyan rebels might be, the Syrian regime does not seem to learn any lesson.

"Mr Al Assad's regime, as it is watching Col Qaddafi's regime fall apart, still insists on suppression, cruelty and abuse as proper methods to curtail the popular uprising in Syria."

Meanwhile, the Syrian people who have, for months now, shown their resolve to continue the protests for regime change, will find a timely morale boost in the current Libyan celebrations following the downfall of Col Qaddafi.

Algeria: last roadblock to Maghreb Union

The historic changes in Tunisia and Libya (autocracies toppled), Morocco (constitutional reforms) and Mauritania (on the road to the state of law) should be ushering in the revival of the Maghreb Arab Union, the once-promising North African economic bloc, wrote Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat, in a column.

But that doesn't seem to be the case yet. Algeria, the fifth and key member of the bloc, still hampers that revival.

"Algeria seems to be the exception that gets in the way of all these positive changes in the Maghreb region," the writer said, "even though the Algerian people are just as hopeful as their counterparts in other Maghreb Union states for better governance, sustainable development and political freedoms."

When ambitions for democratisation were simmering in North African states, the regime in Algeria - a junta with a civilian facade - was undertaking constitutional changes to ensure that power would remain the preserve of the army.

The regime made sure to maintain a measure of tension between it and its neighbours, to keep the country's attention trained on a perceived foreign threat, which makes tight control over internal affairs easier.

It's unfortunate that the country of "the one million martyrs" (for independence from France) is now averse to openness and democratic transition.

Electoral awareness among Emiratis is key

It is essential to raise awareness among Emirati candidates and voters ahead of the Federal National Council elections on September 24, especially since a considerable number of candidates and voters will be taking part for the first time, said an article from the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, published yesterday in the Emirati daily Al Ittihad.

The Voter and Candidate Guide and the FNC Empowerment Programme, issued this month by the National Elections Committee, serve that purpose. Both publications feature useful information about the stages of the electoral process, in an accessible form.

"The higher the awareness among voters about the process and its various aspects," the article said, "the more likely voters are to participate, which will naturally have a positive effect."

Also, heightened voter awareness would keep the candidates in check, preventing them from overstating their electoral agendas for the sake of garnering more votes, the article added. "For one issue that crops up sometimes during the elections is the gap between the candidate's electoral programme and reality."

Some candidates who made big promises and raised high hopes among voters in the last elections performed below expectations once voted into office, the opinion article said.

Libya must manage western ambitions

Liberated from Col Muammar Qaddafi's 42-year rule, Libya must now face up to a major challenge: protecting its people from the crowd of western powers salivating over its oil and vying for handsome infrastructure contracts, Masoud Daher wrote in the comment section of the Dubai paper Al Bayan yesterday.

The first step towards protecting the interests of the Libyan people is to form a national unity government representing all components of society.

Obviously, there are many bumps on the road. First, armed groups still loyal to Col Qaddafi must be subdued. The persistence of armed conflict would protract the involvement of Nato, with more infrastructure destroyed and more civilians as collateral, the writer said.

Second, recouping Libya's frozen deposits - $160bn (Dh588 bn) from foreign bank accounts must be the priority. The handful of millions of dollars disbursed now and then by western countries to cover the monthly salaries of Libyan soldiers and public servants is not enough.

Third, the leadership should beware of the West's intention to reward itself for its military aid with a more lasting corporate presence in Libyan oilfields.

The new leaders must never forget that the West was a great supporter of Col Qaddafi.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi