I posted on the new list H-Mideast-Politics an inquiry about the lack of grassroots democratic practice in the Middle East. I said that I had read in Asharq al-Awsat last year that the Egyptian parliament was seriously considering allowing elections for the governors of the major provinces, eg Buhayra, Minya, etc.
I wondered if this practice of appointing provincial governors went back
to the 1950s military junta or if governors have always been
Then I began wondering about mayor positions. What about the mayor of towns like Asyut or Zaqaziq? Also appointed?
Sometimes the appointed governor has been at odds with the parliamentary
deputation from his province, as occured in Minufiyya in 1999. Is this an
appointed-versus-elected sort of issue? What exactly is the relationship
of the provincial governments to the parliamentarians elected from that
province, usually? I saw one quote that said that provincial secretaries
decided on the parliamentary slate. Provincial secretaries of the ruling
NDP? Or of the governorates? How do you get to be a provincial secretary?
How common is the appointment by the center of provincial governors and
mayors in the Arab world? I mean, one expected it in Saudia or the
Baathist states. But Egypt? What is the situation in, say, Lebanon, or
Is it possible that one of the problems for democracy in the region is that
most genuine democracy starts at the local level, and they do not have it
at that level, or even at the state/province level? After all, a lot of US
presidents have been former governors of states and got their start in
politics that way.
Some informed folks replied that the provincial governors are also appointed in Turkey, so we may be looking at an Ottoman heritage here. But there the office of mayor is an elected one and mayors are important civic leaders. Another poster suggested that there is generally a split in the world between democracies built from the ground up, such as the US, and more centralized ones that do more appointing from the top down.
It seems to me that if we are going to get democracy in a post-Saddam Iraq, that it should be set up so that mayors and provincial governors are elected. Democratic practice has to occur at the local level if it is to have any chance at the national level.