• November 21, 2005
  • 3 minutes read

Will supporters of real democracy in the region please stand up?

Will supporters of real democracy in the region please stand up?

Will supporters of real democracy in the region please stand up?

There has never been any shortage of passion at election time, no matter what the country and no matter how old the democracy. Even in Britain,  proud possessor of the Mother of Parliaments, enthusiasm causes the committed to get carried away. But the "attacks" are usually limited to disrupting political meetings or speeches with excessive heckling. At times, hecklers and demonstrators descend to throwing eggs and flour at the objects of their fury but that’s about it.

The events in Egypt on Sunday – and in other parts of the developing world at times – are an altogether different ball game. Since truth has long been a casualty of politics in the Middle East, whether deriving from opposition forces of various hues or from the incumbent rulers, it is difficult at present to know exactly how widespread were the problems. However, even at this stage in the game, it’s obvious that there are dark forces at work in trying to disrupt organized and potentially successful (i.e. threatening) anti-government candidates and parties.

A campaign worker, initially reported to be the driver for an independent candidate, was said to have been killed in Alexandria. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has the distinction of hugely increasing its own vote in the first round of the parliamentary elections while remaining outlawed, described as "a group of thugs’ gunmen who opened fire on the organization’s supporters, also in Alexandria. An unconfirmed death was also reported.

Some reports, seemingly from people enthusiastic to bear eye-witness accounts to violence, tell of a "intelligence officers" beating up a woman who was protesting that she was not being allowed to vote in the second round of the three-stage elections. They end on December 1.

Whatever the merits or demerits of the reporting of isolated incidents, one overall manifest attempt at the suppression of democratic practices comes in the form of around 450 arrests of supporters on the Muslim Brotherhood, scattered around the various areas of the country where their support is strong.

Officially the Brotherhood does not exist and its "candidates" therefore all stand as independents. Its platform includes a phenomenon those Western supporters of democratizing the Middle East prefer to ignore – the implementation of Sharia law, although there are various conflicting views about exactly how it would be applied.

If the U.S. and all other external powers expect their repeated calls for the introduction of democracy in this part of the world to be taken seriously, they need to condemn what appears to be organized attempts to snuff it out. Or is it only a face of democracy acceptable to the West that is being advocated.