By Syed Neaz Ahmad:
The road to democracy is a long and arduous one. Institutions need to be created, people need to be educated in the principles of democracy and an environment of ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people’ needs to be nurtured and developed, says London-based writer & broadcaster Syed Neaz Ahmad.
The recent upsurge and call for democratic rights in the somewhat volatile region known as the Middle East has taken the world by shock and awe in many regions. Tunisia has fallen, Gaddafi is gone, Syria is in trouble, Iraq is in a mess, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Syria have locked their horns. A hunger for change engulfs the Arab world and observers ask – who’s next?
The misadventure with democracy witnessed in many countries over the past several decades has proved that this man-made system is not the panacea – at least not for countries where political awareness, political grooming and political institutions do not exist or are not allowed to develop.
Egypt is a case in the point. Officially elections were held and rulers were elected – though in most cases with almost no or little opposition. This resulted in a particular party retaining the control of the country for some 30 years with General Hosni Mubarak sitting at the top. It was perfect pyramid. The democratically elected leader Mursi was found unacceptable to the men in Khaki – who manoeuvred his ouster and arrest. Obviously the harsh North African weather is not suitable for democratic practices!
When the overseas liberating, destructing and hopefully constructing powers set their minds on introducing democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya we asked ourselves if the people were – socially, politically and emotionally – mature enough to distinguish between jackals and jackasses? Surprisingly the Tunisian and more recently the Egyptian experience has proved once again that you can fool some people all of the time, all people some of the time but not all people all of the time – yes even after shackling them for decades. However, the arrest of democratically elected President Mursi is not the end of the story.
Tracing our steps back to the rough road – to Kabul, to Baghdad to Tunis, to Cairo, Damascus and many other capitals – and the ongoing adventure and misadventure one must approach this ‘window of opportunity’ with great caution. The road to democracy – be it Cairo or Khartoum – is a long and arduous one. Institutions need to be created, people need to be educated in the principles of democracy and an environment of ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people’ needs to be nurtured and developed.
In Britain, general and local elections are held regularly but apart from the newspapers, television, billboards’ advertisements and promotional junk mail of prospective candidates, there is nothing much on show. Unlike the Third World countries streets are quiet, walls are as ‘silent’ as before and voters and politicians are at ease with each other. Labour labour hard, the Conservatives work in their conventional way and the free-thinking Liberals remain smug as the alternative choice. This is because the leaders dare not take the masses for a ride.
Democracy is not a divine system; it has its shortcomings. But honest people who would carry the can – in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria and elsewhere – and have the interest of their country close to their heart are hard to come by.
Until then the masses will continue to suffer.