by Ray Fleming

ONE of the key partners of the United States in its Middle East policies is holding parliamentary elections on Sunday. Egypt has been at the heart of many of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and its diplomats are considered to be among the most skilled in the area. President Mubarack, president of Egypt since October 1981, is a primary source of advice to President Obama who chose Cairo for his keynote speech on American relations with the Middle East shortly after he took office in 2009. Yet Sunday's elections will be far from the “free and fair” event that the United States and other Western countries are always calling for. The list of candidates has been slimmed down to remove potential trouble-makers and, in particular, those loosely associated with the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition party; independent candidates are harassed by police and the military. Offers of outside help to monitor the elections have been refused: “Egypt is capable of monitoring the polls to prove to the entire world that we are able to manage our completely impartial elections,“ said the prime minister Ahmed Nazif. The turnout on Sunday will probably be about 25 per cent and the ruling National Democratic Party will win easily. In Iraq, by contrast, a shaky coalition is struggling into existence nine months after elections modelled on the American model but with little chance of overseeing stability. What should we make of this striking contrast?

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