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Hosni’s ‘democracy’ Headaches?

Today’s interesting story involves the US Secretary of State Condi Rice giving a bit of aHello form Hosni democracy smack-down to Hosni Mubarak. (US concern over Egyptian reforms)  She is in Egypt today meeting with Arab leaders from across the Middle East.  But its not to her story that I will turn your attention.  Its all about Hosni.  Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is in a fascinating situation which speaks to a much greater issue in the Middle East:

Q: How do you have true democracy in a state where there are folks who would vote to get rid of the democracy?

A: You don’t have a true democracy.

What the hell is the Plaid Avenger talking about here? I’m ranting about Egypt: a staunch US ally in the region; a place that the US government calls a ‘great example of democracy in the Middle East’; a state the has held something that kind of looks like elections, but has resulted in Hosni Mubarak being the president for the last 25 years; and recently a place that is going to ban religious political parties….

Huh? That doesn’t sound like democracy. What gives? Here’s the real deal:  Hosni has essentially ruled the country as a ‘one-party’ state since he came to power in 1981 when the then President Anwar Sadat was assassinated. It has not really been a dictatorship situation, since the country has actually held elections—however, the election ballad has only ever had Mubarak’s name on it.  Its been kind of hard for him to lose…like impossible.  And make no bones about it: he does enjoy widespread popularity throughout the country.  But not everybody loves him, and not everybody votes for him, and not everybody thinks that life in the shadows of the pyramids is all date wine and roses…

There have been religious political parties forming to challenge the incumbent president for years, and they have been getting shut down for years by the government. (Most recently one called The Muslim Brotherhood)  Now, Hosni is planning to change their constitution to outright ban the formation of religious political parties, and that makes democracy-loving nations like the US cringe—especially because the US government touts how Egypt is a model democracy for other in the region to follow!  Like Iraq….ummmm…yeah, sure…  But it’s the Iraq issue that makes this Egypt story so important.  Follow me here:

  • The US/‘The West’ wants these countries to be democratic…
  • Democracy allows folks to express their views…
  • And to elect officials to represent their views…
  • And some religious groups’ views are that democracy is not that good and that their state should be a theocracy (religious state outright)…
  • Which means that a majority of folks could democratically vote to turn their state into a theocracy…
  • Which means there would be no more democracy.

Does your head hurt as much as mine?  Yeah, and Hosni’s too! And probably a lot of other heads across the Middle East, where religious ideals and political realities are intricately intertwined.

Bottom line: many countries in this region pay lip service to democratic ideals, but have to hold power with a tight fist to just to keep a lid on things.  That democracy thing is a tricky beast—it can turn and bite you in the ass man!  The Plaid Avenger is all about equality for all, and I must admit that I personally think democracy kicks ass, and everyone on the planet should be able to voice their opinions.  But that’s just not the way its going to be in many places, at least for now.  Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan…the whole ‘let’s just make them into a democracy overnite’ foreign policy bullshit is just not going to fly!

Anyway, this little blog is just to get you to think about the inherent difficulties of establishing democracy in a place like the Middle East, and perhaps to point out how overly-simplistic US foreign policy tends to be.  But wait! Isn’t what I just described on this page overly-simplistic?  Yes it is my friends, but this is just a damn blog, not an invasion of a foreign country….yet.

The Plaid Avenger Strikes!

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