The anguish of a struggle for democratic government

  Forum Editor 09:34 AM 09 Mar 13
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You would think, wouldn't you, that establishing a democratic government in a country would be a fairly straightforward process, once you have removed power from a previous dictatorship?

That it isn't straightforward at all is beautifully illustrated by what's going on in Egypt at the moment.

I can't help the feeling that the situation there is heading towards a series of serious confrontations between the populace and the military.

  Chronos the 2nd 11:02 AM 09 Mar 13

You would think, wouldn't you, that establishing a democratic government in a country would be a fairly straightforward process, once you have removed power from a previous dictatorship?

No I wouldn't, how many hundreds of years did it take this country to establish a democratic government and one could argue that we still do not have a truly democratic government with an unelected remnant of feudal society. Originally all just major landowners , aristocrats and bishops. The house of lords.

So to expect those countries where there is fundamental religious or tribal divide to suddenly embrace democracy is extremely naïve.

One could argue that some countries need strong leaders to keep warring factions in check but of course that also has can lead to terrible abuses.

  fourm member 11:06 AM 09 Mar 13

I wish I could remember the name of the BBC correspondent who commented before Tito's death that the various factions were only being held together by the will of a strong dictator and he was pretty sure that after Tito's death those factions would compete for power.

We're seeing the same in Eygpt and other countries where the 'Arab Spring' brought changes.

Whilst recognising the danger of re-starting an old debate, I can't help thinking that, when the state shows scant regard for human life, it is less surprising that others are happy to resort to violence.

  Forum Editor 11:36 AM 09 Mar 13

Chronos the 2nd

"So to expect those countries where there is fundamental religious or tribal divide to suddenly embrace democracy is extremely naïve."

It's not naive at all - the people of Egypt want democracy. They'll embrace it sure enough, as soon as it is offered to them via free elections.

Around 90% of the population are Muslims, and the Egyptian constitution formally recognises religious freedom. There are sectarian divides, but they aren't a bar to democratic government, although some of the problems with conversion from Muslim to Christian have been a cause of social unrest.

Trying to draw comparisons between the development of democracy in Britain over a thousand years and what is happening in the 21st century isn't valid. It's ridiculous to suggest that Egypt's path to democracy can be assessed in the light of what happened here.

As I said in my opening post, the path to democracy isn't simple, as the current situation demonstrates. The people want it, and it will happen, but in the meantime there are signs of increasing civil unrest.

  lotvic 12:01 PM 09 Mar 13

"Trying to draw comparisons between the development of democracy in Britain over a thousand years and what is happening in the 21st century isn't valid. It's ridiculous to suggest that Egypt's path to democracy can be assessed in the light of what happened here."

That's nonsense FE

Egypt (and other countries) are just going through it in a shorter time span than we did.

  Forum Editor 12:20 PM 09 Mar 13

lotvic

"Egypt (and other countries) are just going through it in a shorter time span than we did."

Thank you for making my point for me.

It's ridiculous to suggest - as Chronos the 2nd did - that because it took Britain hundreds of years to achieve democracy it's "naïve" to expect other countries to get there more rapidly, once they rid themselves of dictatorships. It's not naïve at all - many other countries have done it.

  fourm member 12:24 PM 09 Mar 13

lotvic

*'That's nonsense FE' *

Why?

That's like saying a flight in a Typhoon is the same as a flight in a Tiger Moth except quicker.

When we created our democracy we didn't know what the finished item was supposed to look like. That's not the case for places like Egypt.

In fact, some of their problems come from knowing what is expected. There are people who don't like the idea of tolerating diversity of opinion so their aim is to eliminate that diversity before moving to democracy.

  Flak999 14:17 PM 09 Mar 13

Really, none of this should come as a surprise! You only have to look at most countries within the African continent ruled by dictators, riven with corruption with a population the vast majority of whom are uneducated, to know that the transit from dictatorship or theocracy to democracy is going to be fraught with difficulty.

I think we in the west tend to assume (naively) that our cultured civilised way of doing things is going to be automatically wanted and embraced by populations some of whom still live a medieval feudal existence. It's not and it won't!

These countries whose citizens blindly follow the exhortations of whatever religious fakir happens to be flavour of the month in the souk at the moment are never, I would hazard going to be able to embrace the subtle nuances of modern western style democracy. This is why the war in Afghanistan is so pointless, I give it six months from the time of western troop withdrawal before the country descends back into the Stygian darkness of 14th century theocracy. All of our troops dead and for what?

To be frank, it's my belief that in these societal backwaters, countries such as these need a "strong man" such as Mubarak to hold the warring tribal and religious factions apart. He at least gave Egypt a thriving economy and a stable international background (thanks to his US backers) he must be laughing to himself as he watches the country implode now he has gone!

Some of these populations should reflect on the mayhem now ensuing and be careful what they wish for!

  lotvic 17:23 PM 09 Mar 13

FE, Chronos said "to expect those countries where there is fundamental religious or tribal divide to suddenly embrace democracy is extremely naïve" and I agree with that statement.

FM, you really believe all the people in Egypt are so well informed on how Democracy works? I think most of the common populace have no idea of how complex it is.

  Forum Editor 17:29 PM 09 Mar 13

lotvic

The people of Egypt have already indicated their willingness to embrace democracy in no uncertain terms.

Your comment addressed to 'FM' saying that "I think most of the common populace have no idea of how complex it (democracy) is." is way wide of the mark. Have you ever been to Egypt? The Egyptian people know very well what democracy means, which is why they have been so passionate in demanding it.

The right to self-determination isn't a complex concept - people all over the world want it, and will strive for it. That's what's going on in Egypt and other places right now.

  john bunyan 19:18 PM 09 Mar 13

Maybe in Egypt democracy has a chance for the reasons put forward by FE. However the situation in Afghanistan is totally different. There is scant evidence that their people crave it. I have a number of contacts who know that country very well. One of them submitted a paper to the Government suggesting that we have to recognise that it is a tribal society, always has been. The west (and USSR before) have tried to impose a leader - the latest has shown little signs of success (see how corrupt his people and police are). Instead it would have been far better to recognise the reality of tribalism and a "first among equals" could have been elected from the tribal leaders, and a much slower route to democracy may have emerged. As it is that country faces difficult times ahead when the westen troops depart.

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