The question has often been asked about how fast can you push a country into the path of democracy. And is it sometimes more prudent to take the slow lane in a country new to democracy?
Well, those are the very questions currently being pondered in Egypt. Americans have been pushing for democracy initiatives in Egypt for a while now, but the boomerang is coming back with unexpected results.
According to Reuters reports, the Muslim Brotherhood, making the most of the more open atmosphere which Washington has promoted, has taken to democracy in an undemocratic fashion. The Brotherhood has already tripled its strength in parliament to 47 of the 444 elected seats, with more than half the seats yet to be decided.
The secular opposition parties which Washington favored, Reuters reported, have performed poorly, picking up only a handful of seats. It’s way short of the five percent they would need if they want to field a candidate in presidential elections.
So, the United States has inadvertently helped Egypt’s Islamists make strong electoral gains. Even though the Brotherhood has no real chance of breaking up Egypt’s government control, it is not a direction the U.S. wants to see that country move toward.
In fact, Mohamed el-Sayed Said, a political analyst at a Cairo think-tank, told Reuters the U.S. may quickly be moving to a conclusion that the democratization in Egypt is impossible and will work only in an undesirable way.
The Egyptian vote so far has only enabled Islamist parties hostile to U.S. policies to gain strength in several Middle Eastern countries.
Several minority parties in Middle Eastern countries have benefited from U.S. calls for change, which have helped to open up debate and emboldened civil society groups to monitor elections much more closely.
But pushing the democratic button has also given some extreme groups, such as the Brotherhood, a voice they didn’t previously have.
We admit that there are risks involved with pushing our brand of democracy on countries with vastly different backgrounds, morals and political leanings, but democracy somehow seems to eventually rise above it all.
We hope the United States stays the course on developing democratic movements in countries across the world. Democracy works and it will find its way wherever freedom is allowed to reign.