x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Spiritual leader's nod is the winning card

"The three challengers do not possess enough influence to win these elections, giving an ample chance for President Ahmadinejad to remain in his position until at least 2013."

In a comment piece for the Jordan-based daily Al Rai, columnist Mohammed Kharroub wrote: "Tomorrow the Iranians will go to cast their ballots to choose one of four candidates." The president of Iran, Mahmoud  Ahmadinejad, stands out as the outsider in these elections and is expected to continue a tradition dating back three decades. Although he may encounter tough competition from other candidates, dubbed as reformists, the current president is still able to defend his electoral platform, mostly to convince Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic. The supreme leader's benediction is indeed the sole  recommendation he needs in order to stay in power for many more years to come.

President Ahmadinejad has been fiercely attacked over issues that he himself is proud of: his confrontation with the West and his denial of the Holocaust, social and political constraints, and his economic programmes. The televised debates served the regime's favourite more than they did the reformists. President Ahmadinejad attacked his rivals by threatening to open files of corruption in which he claimed they were involved. The three challengers do not possess enough influence to win these elections, giving an ample chance for President Ahmadinejad to remain in his position until at least 2013.

"The Fatah parliamentary bloc's attitude against the government of the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayadh, is very significant and goes beyond all expectations. This stance appears to widen the gulf between Fatah as a political party and Palestine authority as an official body, supposedly responsible for managing public life in both West Bank and Gaza Strip," wrote Rasem al Madhoune in an opinion piece for the London-based daily Al Hayat.

As such, "we can understand that this attitude is a sort of boycotting of the official authority, primarily that of the president of Palestinian authority. Yet this stance can also bear another interpretation: many of Fatah's leaders believe Salam Fayadh's team think Fatah is responsible for the current situation of national division. At the same time, there is a general feeling that credit for any eventual political success will only go to the prime minister, the independents and those who co-operate with him."

This state of division also reflects that of Fatah itself. "By no means can we call it a political change or evolution in the framework of political diversity, a landmark characteristic Fatah throughout its 40-year history." It is an unhealthy polarisation which is likely to further weaken the position of Palestinians at a time when they all have to address serious national as well as international challenges.

"Mauritanian political life has recently witnessed an amazing series of events that could possibly solve the presidential crisis, thanks to international mediation led by the president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade," wrote Khadir Bouqayla in an opinion piece carried by the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi. "As circle of candidates widens, Mauritania has more chances to escape its political impasse." The firm determination of the ousted president, Mohamed Ould Sheikh Abdallahi, to fight for his lost office has indeed triggered strong opposition that would lead at last to a possible breakthrough in the Mauritanian political quagmire.

The intention of former president Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Fal to run for the upcoming election is one example of the political dynamism in which the country is living.   Another man who is expected to stage a political comeback at any time is another former president, Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who may enter the race too. He may be motivated by a will to pursue the reform programmes he started just before he was overthrown. All in all, the new developments in Mauritania give hope that political tension is easing - a necessary step to restore democracy.

"With the visit of the American special envoy, George Mitchell, to the Middle East, President Barack Obama's administration has been very keen to create an optimistic atmosphere," reported the leading article of the UAE-based newspaper Al Bayan.

"The US has renewed its call to stop the expansion of Israeli settlements. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has in her turn denied the allegations of the Israeli government that the former US administration promised to accept the natural growth of settlements."  President Obama asked his envoy to set the grounds for immediate talks between the two parties in conflict. But the reality is the government of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Nethanyahu, has not stepped back from its rigid position, nor has the US administration translated its plans into feasible steps likely to concretise the two-state-solution plan.

Unless it does, Mitchell's mission will be reduced to merely shuttle visits of no substance. "Pressing Israel to engage in direct negotiations and talking about the establishment of a Palestinian state as a requirement for the peace process is not enough. The US administration has to be part of the talks and present clear concepts with specific deadlines." * Digest compiled by Moustapha Elmouloudi