When Democracy Isn't

Egypt is currently holding a three-day election-fest for their next President.

With just one real candidate and a lame duck standing, the result is considered a foregone conclusion.

The only credible candidate is Abdel Fattah el-Sisi , who seized power in a coup from the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsy in July 2013. 

Morsy had ruled Egypt as a result of his overwhelming electoral victory on 30 June 2012, until the coup on 3 July 2013.

Morsy's 'crime' was being the leader of the too-popular Islamic Brotherhood/Freedom & Justice Party.

This time around, the Islamic Brotherhood has been totally banned in Egypt and most of their leadership has been imprisoned, including Morsy himself, or are in hiding. 

This is reminiscent of the only democratic election ever held in the Palestinian Authority. 

In an open electoral contest, which included both the PLO/Fatah and Hamas, in 2006, Change and Reform/Hamas gained 44.45% (74 seats); Fatah gained 41.43% (45 seats) of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

On 29 March 2006 a new government was formed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.

The new Hamas-led authority was immediately boycotted and sanctioned by Israel and the "Quartet" - consisting of the United Nations, The United States, The European Union and Russia.

Finally, the arrangement crumbled and collapsed in 2007, resulting in a Hamas coup in Gaza, and a PLO take-over in the West Bank.

Very little mention has been made of "democracy" in any public discussions about the future of the Palestinian Authority. It's a failed experiment, offering only bad memories. 

Natan Sharansky's book The Case for Democracy, published in 2004 and famously endorsed by George Bush, analysed the difference between an electoral process and a democracy. 

He argued that simply introducing electoral process to despotic countries will not foster peaceful liberal democracies. 

He pointed to the critical importance of fostering democratic culture, which included "Can someone within that society walk into the town square and say what they want without fear of being punished for his or her views? If so, then that society is a free society. If not, it is a fear society."

Using such a litmus test, the Arab world is still very far from being democratic, in spite of the Arab Spring, and the domino changes of governments across North Africa and the Middle East. 

It appears that, left to their own devices, the Arab masses will inevitably vote for the wrong guy. 


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