- - Monday, December 12, 2011

ISRAEL

Official: Many Arabs unready for democracy

JERUSALEM — Israel’s vice premier declared Monday that many Arab countries are not ready for democracy - a comment sure to rankle many in the Middle East, where thousands have died and thousands more have risked their lives in uprisings against brutal dictators.

Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Israel learned a bitter lesson about democracy in the Middle East when Islamist Hamas militants came to power in free elections in Palestinian territories in 2006.

The following year, the group violently overran the Gaza Strip, ousting forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Democratic elections, Mr. Ya’alon said, do not necessarily make for democratic practices.

“We are not sure, to say the least, what we witness now is real democratization,” he told a group of foreign journalists. “Hamas exploited the democratic rules of the game … to impose a nondemocratic regime.

“We believe that you can’t reach democracy by elections,” he added. “We believe in a long process. It should start by education.”

Tunisia - which does not border Israel - might be ripe for democracy, he said. But Palestinians, he said, are not.

FRANCE

Former prime minister to run for president

PARIS — Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister who gained international renown for speaking out against the war in Iraq, shook up France’s presidential campaign Monday by announcing he will run as an independent.

The announcement on French television is likely to complicate life for both the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, and President Nicolas Sarkozy, who runs the conservative Union for a Popular Movement party that Mr. Villepin served under.

By positioning himself as a centrist, Mr. Villepin could siphon votes from both candidates, but the move is being seen primarily as a finger in the eye of Mr. Sarkozy. The two men are bitter rivals, despite inhabiting the same conservative side of the political spectrum.

TUNISIA

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