Controversy over Egyptian elections

Verbal assurances from Egypt's ruling party, the National Democratic Party, are not enough to dissipate the concerns from opposition groups about fair process.

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'Verbal assurances from Egypt's ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), are not enough to dissipate the concerns from opposition groups about fair process, wrote Mohammed Salah, a columnist with the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

"Fair elections don't run on promises alone. Similar assurances, perhaps formulated by the very same officials, have recurred in all previous elections. This didn't prevent the NDP from clinching the majority of the votes and later condemning the 'allegations' of opposition candidates about rigged elections."

Now that the NDP has rejected international oversight over the upcoming elections, the right of civil society organisations and the media to closely watch the electoral process has become a point of concern.

Actions such as reining in the movement of opposition candidates, namely members of the Muslim Brotherhood, to allow NDP candidates wider access to the constituents would refute the trumpeted "equality of chance".

It is no secret that the Egyptian government and some opposition parties do not want to see the 88-seat triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in the last elections to play out again. "But that shouldn't be a pretext for messing up the whole electoral process."

Will the UK capitulate to Israeli blackmail?

The Israeli government has practiced an act of blackmail when it postponed its annual strategic dialogue with Britain. The latter still upholds laws that allow for the prosecution of persons accused of committing war crimes, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi stated in its editorial.

In a submissive move, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, who is on his first official visit to the Middle East, affirmed that he will submit a draft motion on the matter to the House of Commons in the coming weeks.

As documented in the Goldstone report, which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, the Israelis committed war crimes during the attack on Gaza in 2008. And they committed crimes once again last May when they illegally raided the Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine Turkish activists.

"So, this subservience on the part of the British coalition government is an uncharacteristic move away from the defence of human rights and the independence of the judiciary"

During the time of John Major and Tony Blair, the British government had categorically rejected the idea of amending its laws to allow the deportation of two Saudi dissidents, the reason being that the judiciary is not to be meddled with.

Now, if the British judicial laws in question end up being amended, that will go down as an stain in the annals of Britain's history.

Mid-term polls send US back to racism

Not only did the results of the US mid-term elections reflect a strong American leaning towards the conservative right, they also betrayed a yet more acute tendency towards the "racist right", which Americans thought had been buried, wrote Satei Noureddine, a commentator with the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

It wasn't a coincidence, then, that the results of the elections came out while a Washington court was handing down a 30-year prison sentence to three US citizens convicted of undertaking Klu Klux Klan-inspired cross burning in front of an African American home.

Indeed, after these elections, Washington looks more like some European capitals where one can meet members of parliament or government who can easily be described as plain racists and who were once just a bunch of skinheads assaulting people on the street.

"The seats won by the Tea Party candidates, in both houses of Congress, do not exceed five per cent, but they reflect a very dangerous popular mood in a country that has, until very recently, been the strongest country for minorities in the world."

These candidates - referred to by some Democrats as "witches" - represent voters who not only share their convictions, but who agreed to give them a warrant to go to Washington and "exorcise it from evil spirits".

Iraqi vice president backs Saudi offer

During his meeting with the Syrian president Bashar Assad in Damascus on Wednesday, the Iraqi vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, stressed the importance of implementing the recently proposed initiative by the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to bring together all Iraqi political players in Riyadh for talks under the umbrella of the Arab League.

According to the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, a source close to Mr Abdul Mahdi confirmed that the Iraqi vice president told Mr Assad that "the Saudi King's initiative presents an exit point from the political stalemate in Iraq".

After the meeting with Mr Assad and the Syrian vice president, Farouk al Sharaa, the Iraqi vice president noted that "there are positive reactions within Iraqi and regional circles to the initiative".

About the role of Syria, Mr Abdul Mahdi said Damascus "plays a significant part in finding a resolution to the Iraqi issue, and that is through consultation with Iraqi and regional parties".

For his part, the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zibari, said in a press conference in Baghdad on Wednesday: "We received with great interest the kind initiative of the King of Saudi Arabia. It is a fine and courteous initiative. We consider it a well-intentioned initiative meaning to serve the Iraqi people."

* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi