Democracy versus stability

Extensive efforts are being made, at the intellectual level, to place democracy and stability at opposite poles. There is no stability under democratic conditions, and no democracy before securing stability. It is either or, they say.

The purpose of this claim is obvious: to justify dictatorship as a prerequisite for security and stability.

Under this claim, Russia, which flirted with democracy and plurality following the collapse of the communist regime, is now having second thoughts. Russia can be seen under President Vladimir Putin as departing from democracy and giving priority to stability.

On a rare occasion performing self- criticism, American President George Bush admitted that American foreign policy towards the Middle East used to appease dictatorships and give priority to stability. Under the doctrine, America fully cooperated with, and unconditionally supported, authoritarian regimes in the region if they were loyal to America. However, the president added, from now on, America will give priority to democracy and abandon undemocratic regimes.

Supporting stability at the expense of democracy, he observed, achieved neither stability nor democracy. This is how the principle of imposing democracy in the “New Middle East” came about and was adopted by America and the industrial group of eight, but not for long. America now is back to giving priority to stability, at the expense of democracy.

Democracy is sought by all peoples for its sake, whether it comes about under domestic, popular pressure or under pressure exerted by America and Europe. The problem is that democracy is a weapon used only vis-?is regimes that do not submit to the will of the West.

It is felt, in this case, that the real objective is neither democracy nor stability. It is simply to pressure regimes the West doesn’t like. When friendly regimes violate human rights, America and Europe simply look the other way.

Ruling classes in the Arab world which rejected democracy, claiming that it is imposed from without, did not do anything to democratise from within. Democracy, in their view, threatens stability (of the regimes of course).

Those Arab intellectuals who call for the imposition of democracy by outside powers argue that removing undemocratic authorities by the people is not realistic or possible, due to the nature of the entrenched brutal systems. They take Iraq as an example.

The real dilemma facing both the enemies of democracy and the beneficiaries of the status quo in the Middle East, when it comes to democracy, is that democracy and free elections bring to power enemies of democracy and the West. They notice that democracy promoted by liberal Arabs only leads to their marginalisation, to the benefit of undemocratic movements. This argument was evidenced by the results of elections in Egypt, Palestine, Bahrain and Iraq. They remind everybody of what happened in Algeria when the Islamic Salvation Front was about to sweep the elections. It announced in advance that those elections would be the last to take place in the country. The winners would get their legitimacy from the Almighty not from the polls, they said.

The popularity of fundamentalists and other Islamic movements is a fact to be reckoned with. It is not due to a success of Islamic experiments in Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia or Sudan. It is mainly due to the rejection of the alternative, which is bad and corrupt. Islamists are helped by current mismanagement, bad governance and submission to the will of foreigners.

Taleban rule in Afghanistan is bad, but the corrupt rule of the present mafia gangs operating in there under foreign occupation is worse.