x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Arabs not yet ready for democracy

An Arabic-language columnist argues that Arab people have not earned the fruits of democracy yet. Other topics: Jordan and Hosni Mubarak.

Arabs badly need democracy, but they have a long way to go before they are ready for it

"[Here] is a very tricky question if one really wants to answer it honestly and objectively, away from populist chants and demagoguery: are Arabs prepared for democracy?" wrote Imad Eddine Adeeb, an Egyptian columnist, in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"Of course, Arab peoples are badly in need of democracy and deserve to enjoy all its delights. But they have not yet paid the bill that civilisations before them have had to pay to finally establish democratic rule - a system that is based on the rule of law and a peaceful rotation of power, as dictated by the results of free elections," Adeeb wrote in the Saudi-owned publication yesterday.

His column on Monday advocated the release of Hosni Mubarak, the deposed Egyptian president.

Democracy is a process, he argued. It involves the accumulation of political experience and legislative gains that both grassroots people and elites struggle to achieve in a peaceful way, over an extended period of time.

"But in our Arab democracies, we just want to get hold of the cake that is democracy and gobble it up straight away without assembling its delicate ingredients on the table, without knowing how to cook it up to perfection and without having the patience to keep it in the oven for as long as it needs to mature," Adeeb wrote. "We want the big prize but reject the high price that comes with it."

Sure, many people in Arab Spring countries have paid - and still are paying - a big price, he wrote.

"Unfortunately, however, those sacrifices were not made about democracy, but rather had to be made because of a failure in choosing the right way to get to it."

The columnist noted that the late Maj Gen Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief under President Mubarak, once asked the same question about Egypt: "Are we prepared for democracy?" To this he answered: "Egypt is not prepared for democracy."

"After this sentence, all hell broke loose on the man," Adeeb added. "If only Gen Suleiman, may he rest in peace, had phrased it this way: 'Egypt is not prepared for democracy yet.'"

That single word at the end would have turned his statement into a completely cogent argument, Adeeb went on.

"We lack the culture of democracy, and our institutions are still outdated, corrupt and decaying, operating with the same old administrative structures and tattered values and moral codes, all of which have nothing to do with democracy."

For more than 500 years, Europe walked a thorny road to freedom, rights and democracy. It fought the despotism of the church and countered the Dark Ages with the Enlightenment.

"Our Arab world, on the other hand, is talking about freedom but practicing tyranny."

Jordan suffers from its neighbours' crises

Jordanian officials are fully aware that the Syrian crisis is the prime barometer of their country's stability. Hence, they are usually careful to formulate well-balanced policies that stave off any political crises that could jeopardise stability, noted the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial on Tuesday.

Jordan isn't rich in natural resources; it has no oil or gold. Its main capital is its ability to coexist with its neighbours and to maintain its stability. Any mistake that threatens to disrupt either of these puts the unique Jordanian setting at great risk.

The UK daily The Guardian reported on Sunday: "Jordan has agreed to spearhead a Saudi-led push to arm rebel groups through its borders into southern Syria, in a move that coincides with the transfer from Riyadh to Amman of more than $1bn (Dh 3.67 billion)."

Jordan's financial woes are no secret. Its general debt has surpassed the $20bn mark. It has been struggling to address its economic hardship especially with the added burden of nearly one million Syrian refugees.

"Nonetheless, additional involvement in the Syrian crisis may compound the country's financial issues and lead to serious repercussions," the paper suggested.

Jordan's situation is quite alarming. It has become a basin that accumulates crises from the neighbouring countries of Iraq, Syria and Palestine.

Mubarak's supporters must accept he is gone

Former president Hosni Mubarak is history now, and the stumbling trial proceedings are only part of his dying phase before history brings the curtain down on him, noted Emad Eddine Hussein in an article in the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

Those who imagine Mr Mubarak could come back to rule Egypt are way off-base, the writer commented.

Granted, Mr Mubarak's smile last Saturday reflected a setback for the revolution. But it does not mean in any way at all that Mr Mubarak will make a comeback in public life, as some people dream.

The columnist said he knows people who used to abhor Mr Mubarak and are now mourning his era, and he knows others who would not even mind a return of Mr Mubarak's National Party if that would rid them of the Brotherhood and the Islamist trend.

History may stumble or freeze, but it does not move backward, the writer argued. Mr Mubarak's people should accept the dynamic of history and save their efforts.

Sure, Mr Mubarak is history. But is his regime history, too? This calls for a definition of Mr Mubarak's regime.

On this point some people would ask: were there any principles or ideologies under Mr Mubarak's rule to justify calling it a regime in the first place?

 

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae