x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Democracy in the Gulf must be given time

Editorials in Arabic newspapers also comment on Moscow's mission in Syria and the recall of GCC envoys from Damascus.

Democracy in the Gulf must come gradually from within - not be brusquely imported

Whenever there is serious talk about the state of democracy in the Arab Gulf countries, there is someone who is quick to exclaim: Do we really want to become like Kuwait?

While the question implies a clearly skewed view on Kuwaiti politics, its proponents across the Gulf manage to score points when the question of democracy is debated in intellectual circles in this region, wrote Mohammed Al Hammadi, an Emirati journalist, in the opinion pages of the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad.

It's true, after all, that if the democratic experience in Kuwait were different than what it is, the route to democracy would have looked more attractive to other Gulf nations, the writer said.

The Kuwaiti system in the region is widely viewed as more politically open yet dysfunctional. Earlier this month, Kuwait held its fourth parliamentary elections in six years, as frictions between democratically elected representatives and appointed officials chronically affect the performance of both parliament and cabinet.

Yet that doesn't mean that calling for democracy in the Gulf should stall, the writer said. Rather, it must make a step forward. "Over the past years, there were calls for democracy, but that was it. No concept or idea of the form and specifics of the kind of democracy that is required were put forward," he noted.

"Everyone agrees that democracy is not importable, and that neither western nor eastern democracy would suit [Gulf] societies. That's why they must work to come up with a local democracy that fits."

No one has yet pitched that sort of "creative democracy" the Arabs of the Gulf need "although that's what the concerned parties must really focus on."

Bear in mind that there is a number of Gulf locals who speak about democracy as if it were "the looming danger" that threatens to undermine what their respective nations have achieved over the past decades, the writer said. On the other end, there are those who see democracy as "the only way for them to achieve their ideological goals and political aspirations to be in power.

"As to the latter, well their dreams have run amok, while the former are taking their fears too far."

Gulf states are still in "the trial period," the writer went on, looking to translate the ideas of their respective elites into socially upheld convictions.

All in all, for democratic transition to happen in the Gulf, it must come from within, the writer stressed, with the local communities all standing behind it and the ruling elites agreeing to it.

Never expect democratic transition to be welcome in the Gulf if it comes in the way of what has been achieved already; namely in the sectors of human development, welfare, and social security.

Moscow's mission is a farewell gesture

In 1990, in a last-minute-diplomatic move, Moscow under the Soviet Union sent one of its top politicians that later became a minister of foreign affairs, Yvengeny Primakov, to meet with the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and persuade him to withdraw from Kuwait, said Tariq Homayed, the editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Yesterday, in a similar last-minute attempt, Moscow sent it foreign affairs minister, along with its head of intelligence, to convince Syrian president Bashar Al Assad to stop killing his people and begin reforms.

Russian diplomacy isn't much different from what it was like when it was part of the Soviet Union just as Mr Al Assad is a lot like Saddam Hussein, if not worse.

Mr Primakov later detailed in a book his meeting with the Iraqi dictator in which the latter tried to present himself as a peaceful "dove".

"What might the tyrant of Damascus have had to say to his Russian guests?" wondered the writer. "He certainly assured them that he indeed wants reforms and that he did not order the killing of his people."

Al Assad too must have tried to depict himself as a dove, as opposed to other "vultures" around him that are pushing for the bloody solution to "purge" Syria.

"The Russian mission in Syria would most probably have the same outcome the USSR mission had in Iraq. It will end up being no more than a farewell kiss."

GCC's bold decision a wake up call for Arabs

The Gulf Cooperation Council states' decision on Tuesday to expel Syrian envoys and recall from Damascus any GCC envoys was indeed courageous, said the Qatari daily Asharq in its editorial.

"The decision came to reflect the pointlessness of keeping the envoys of the Syrian regime that has rejected all the Arab efforts to find a solution for the crisis and prevent additional bloodshed."

The GCC reaction was in no way hasty and it didn't come from nothing. It was a final resort as the Gulf states had exhausted their efforts and reached a level of despair and disgust vis-à-vis the escalation of violence and the mass massacre taking place in Syria.

This resolute and brave decision reveals how irritated the GCC member states are with the Syrian regime's immovable position. "It is a loud and clear message to the Arab League, scheduled to convene next week, to take the necessary procedures regarding the murderous escalation that the Syrian regime continues to practice against its own people."

The Gulf decision coincides with similar international moves to pressure Al Assad's regime. It certainly forces the rest of the Arab states to come face to face with their ethical and humanitarian responsibility to champion the Syrian people.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk