- Documents on Democracy
On November 18, the National Endowment for Democracy organized a conference entitled "Middle Eastern Democrats and Their Vision of the Future." Among the speakers were Representative Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Musa Maaytah, Jordanian minister of political development; and Nouzha Skalli, Moroccan minister of social development, family, and solidarity. Ayman Nour, head of the Egyptian El Ghad Party, sent a video message and participated by phone. Excerpts from his video statement appear below:
I am happy to speak before you today at this conference given the special importance of its topic, participants, and hosts. It would have been a greater pleasure to have had the honor of speaking with you face-to-face. However, the [Egyptian] authorities that permitted me to travel to Belgium this past April to speak before the European Parliament banned me from traveling to America to participate in this conference.
It has become clear that although the government released me from prison on 18 February 2009, only five months prior to the legal release date, with the objective of easing internal and external pressures, the real intention was to deprive me of my basic human and constitutional rights, not just as a liberal opposition leader or as a competitor to the current president or next candidate but as an Egyptian citizen and human being. . . . I was released from my small prison into a bigger prison. . . .
General elections in authoritarian states lack the minimum guarantees of competitiveness and integrity, and this is a very critical situation similar to a defenseless person entering a lion's den. In reality there are no constitutional, legal, or judicial guarantees, and all authorities are subject to the will of the "Sun King" or ruler who believes in the theory of Louis XIV, who said, "I am the state and the state is I." When the president is the State and the State is the President, law, justice, reason, and human rights are absent and everything becomes possible. [End Page 175]
In prison, where I spent four years and Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim spent several years in the past, there is a special wing with dozens of rooms and hundreds of detainees known as the "Elections Ward," and another ward for political activists, where some spend dozens of years without trial or appearing before a fair judge. . . .
What the Ghad Party had become between its establishment in October 2004 and the presidential elections in September 2005 presents overwhelming confirmation of the ability of a liberal political party to succeed as a third alternative to authoritarianism and fundamentalism. . . .
I was released from prison to find a wide cross-section of Egyptians who view us as hope for change. . . . This responsibility led us to issue a declaration on 6 April 2009 entitled the "Cairo Declaration," which outlines the most significant challenges and aspirations for free, fair, and transparent elections. . . .
The ten points included in the Cairo Declaration are the most important features of our proposal for political and electoral reform through free and fair elections in Egypt, namely:
One, change the constitutional and legal systems that frame the electoral processes for both presidential and parliamentary elections in Egypt. . . .
Four, limit presidential terms to a maximum of two terms with no possibility for renewal. . . .
Ten, form the legal basis for civil and international monitoring in general elections and invite international NGO and parliamentary participation in the development of international standards to determine the transparency of the upcoming Egyptian elections. Also, direct international assistance to support fair and transparent elections and link progress in democracy to progress in the implementation of economic assistance programs. . . .
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) presented its Light of Truth Award to Wang Lixiong, a Chinese writer who coauthored a 12 March 2008 open letter to the Chinese authorities entitled "Twelve Suggestions for Handling the Tibetan Situation." Below are excerpts from Wang Lixiong's acceptance speech on October 7:
At this moment of honor, I remain deeply worried for Mr. Liu Xiaobo, who participated in the drafting of "Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibetan Situation," and who at this time is being held in a prison in China for the...