Friday, April 28, 2006

Middle East Democracy

Towards the end of last year the UAE Government announced a plan to introduce a little bit of 'democracy' into the selection of members of the FNC (Federal National Council). I blogged about it then, and was possibly a bit disparaging. Some of the Emirates have now started the process of selecting their councils. Emirati blogged about it, and concludes that this is not democracy. Well, certainly it's not.

But this is where we run into problems, because politics and democratic ideas are so new in this region. There is absolutely no tradition of 'voting' for things. There is a tradition of consultation in Majlises, but that only works when you are dealing with a small number of people. A leader simply cannot ask a million people what they think. I think the UAEs slow and cautious approach is probably wise, given that we actually have the best possible leadership in place right now. It's actually not broken, and doesn't need fixing. The rest of the world, however, thinks otherwise.

We have already seen that democratic elections in Iran threw up the lunatic Ahmedinejad, in Palestine the terrorist Hamas organisation won, and Iraq is a complete can of worms that now can probably not be solved without a horrible civil war and the eventual splitting of the country into three bits. Even sleepy Bahrain has its share of Islamist MPs who would be very happy to take their country back to the 14th century.

Now, I know that in a true democracy, you cannot say 'vote for anybody you like, but if that guy with the long beard and crazed look in his eye wins then we cancel the election and have to start again'. But this is the very very real danger that democracy poses to the Middle East right now. The 'wrong' people will win. I'm talking about Islamists / theocrats. They will win because they want to win. Because the moderate voices of the moderate candidates will not be heard. Because the indigenous population of the Middle East is so pissed off with the way the West has treated them, that they will vote for the guys that will irritate the West most.

To say that the Middle East is not yet ready to embrace Western-style democracy is a total understatement. It'll all end in tears, you mark my words.