8th Apr, 2013 –

Anti-democracy: Where the trappings of democracy (ballot boxes & elections) trample all over the values of democracy (equal rights, rule of law…).

Iraq’s failed democratic experiment

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Sunnis are protesting against the abuse of the political system to marginalize them, arrest and exile their leaders and rob them of their share of the nation’s wealth. Prime Minister Al-Maliki is seeking to remain in power beyond his second political term, despite never having been elected.

Egypt: Stolen democracy

The Muslim Brotherhood now dominate the Parliament, Presidency and Government and through illegal measures against senior judges are seeking to dominate the judiciary too. The Brotherhood secured this political coup d’état through their powerful social networks across the country. Through domination of the ballot boxes, Egyptians are waking up to a new form of dictatorship.

Many have died in fighting between Christians and Muslims, with several churches being attacked. Legal measures are being taken against popular Egyptian comedian Bassem Yousif after TV shows that ridiculed the President.

Libya: Democracy under the militias

After failing to perform well in the 2012 elections, Islamist groups are increasingly turning to paramilitary violence in a country oversupplied with guns. Militants are able to make the democratic process almost irrelevant by forcing the agenda and wielding control over significant parts of the country.

Syria’s emerging anti-democrats

Most recent military victories have been due to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra front. These are militants with an extremist Islamist vision for Syria. When Bashar Al-Assad is toppled, the overseas-based opposition coalition (a turbulent alliance of Islamists and secularists) will certainly have to concede political ground to Al-Nusra, which may be militarily pre-eminent over much of the country.

Tunisia: Assassination of democracy

The Islamist Al-Nahdhah Party and extremist Salafists are accused of murdering leftist opposition leader Shokry Belaid. When the former Prime Minister sought to form a unity government following mass protests against the assassination, Al-Nahdhah forced his resignation to avoid having their position weakened.

Iran’s fake democracy

In the coming elections Iranians will have to choose between various shades of conservative hardliners. Reformist and liberal candidates are prevented from standing for the Presidency or the Parliament. In 2009 a reformist-leaning candidate Mir Hussein Mousawi is believed to have had his electoral win stolen by Supreme Leader-backed incumbent President Ahmedinejad.

Bahrain’s anti-democrats

In Bahrain Shia protesters at the direction of Ayatollah Isa Qassim stage weekly riots across the country with the intention of bringing down the Monarchy and bringing about an Islamic Republic along Iranian lines.

Democratic turmoil in Jordan and Kuwait

Constitutional Monarchies Kuwait and Jordan have seen chronic political instability: Jordan has had five Prime Ministers in two years; Kuwait has required five rounds of Parliamentary elections since 2006. In both countries the latest rounds of elections were boycotted by Islamist oppositions who staged protests demanding changes to the electoral system favourable to their interests.

Lebanon: Democracy as proxy war

There has been chronic political instability in Lebanon resulting from the violence in Syria. Hezbollah, which owes its support to Iran and the Syrian regime, uses its military and political muscle to call the shots, and much of the sectarian-based political system is defined by the positions parties take towards the Syrian regime. It is uncertain whether Parliamentary elections will be possible this summer.

Why anti-democracy?

In all these cases, the result of failed attempts to introduce democracy have produced its exact opposite: Anti-democracy. This is because all these experiments have concentrated entirely on the holding of elections, while ignoring the values and institutions of democracy:

·        Separation of powers

·        Accountability of elected officials

·        Enshrined rights for minorities, women and religious faiths

·        Education; including increasing political awareness across society

·        Freedoms of the individual, particularly freedom of expression

·        Primacy of the rule of law

·        Economic freedoms and enshrined Government commitment to improving the economic wellbeing of individuals.

The result has been the rise to power of sectarian extremist groups, which have focused their efforts on liquidating political opposition, establishing political hegemony and furthering social agendas hostile to the interests of citizens.

These groups always act under the umbrella of democracy, but they are fundamentally anti-democrats who see the ballot box as a means to an end. Democratic reform is vital for the entire region but this means developing the necessary institutions and fostering political maturity among citizens – not a disastrous revolutionary leap towards a flawed democratic system that the society is not ready for.

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