Democracy in the Middle East
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This analysis provides a discussion of a number of religious cultural and political factors ...... More...
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This analysis provides a discussion of a number of religious, cultural, and political factors among Arab nations in the Middle East that create a challenge to the adoption of democratic institutions and liberal reforms in those nations. Included are examples of capitalism, Islam, colonialism, authoritarian regimes, and other factors that continue to thwart the spread of genuine democracy in the region.
Democracy in the Middle East Introduction Samuel P Huntington maintains that between and a trend toward democratic systems of government pervaded the world\'snations This global democratic revolution\' is probably the mostimportant political trend in the late twentieth century It is the thirdwave of democratization in the modern era p From religion and oilto culture Arab rulers there are numerous religious and culturalchallenges to establishing pluralistic democracy in the Middle East that iscompatible with Islam While some nations of the Middle East have
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World Politics, 53, 325- 361. Diamond discusses how hybrid regimes often hold elections but they manipulate the results or outcome of those elections in ways that continues to reinforce an authoritarian government status quo.Diamond, L., Plattner, M.F., & Brumberg, D. (2 1, Apr). Islam and Democracy in the Middle East. (1991-92). Huntington's analysis discusses the third wave of democratization in the modern era, including how the trend toward democratic systems of government works itself out on a global level.Neep, D. Thecountry studies of Iran, Turkey, and other Arab states offered by theessays in Diamond (et al., 2 3) clearly demonstrate the diversity ofculture and constitutional forms in the Middle East. Political Science Quarterly, 1 6(4), 579-616. As Emmanuel Sivan points out, countries likeTunisia and others often thwart the electoral process, using it as a façadeof democracy but undermining the process internally to maintain the statusquo, "In Tunisia, the two contenders allowed to run came from minoropposition parties and got barely .6 percent of the vote. Journal of Democracy, 13(2), 21-35. Bellin provides a Marxist perspective of why democracy is slow to spread in nations where capitalism is viewed as requiring the exploitation of the working class for the benefit of the wealthy or ownership class. With respect to liberal reforms aimed at economic development,capitalism itself is often responsible for challenging the acceptance ofdemocratic institutions in the Middle East. From this conceptual perspective of thepeople, it is easy to see how the ayatollahs and other religious eliteswere able to create policy that undermined democracy and reinforced theauthority of religious ruling parties. However, in theKoran there is little support for the abuses perpetuated against women'sfreedoms in many Arab nations. A long history of colonialism and exploitation of Middle Easternnations by the West have also acted to undermine the adoption of democracyby many Arab nations and cultures. While many Arab rulers are guiltythemselves of exploiting their people and their nation's resources fortheir own benefit, this is viewed as more acceptable in the region thanallowing Western forces to benefit from similar tactics. Nevertheless, theresearch demonstrates that a democratic discourse is underway throughoutthe region even if it is a discourse that seldom results in positive changedirected toward genuine democracy. Honored moreoften in the breach than the observance, this lip service to freedom anddemocracy understandably rankled those who had hoped the U.S. From Arab rulers who remain authoritative and resistant toliberal reforms to religious factions that adamantly oppose capitalism anddemocratic liberalization, the move toward real democracy in the MiddleEast is uneven among states and slow going even in those states that aremore democratically progressive than others. Aconclusion will address new perspectives in among U.S. policy pays lip service to democratic principles but is merely an effort to enact liberal reforms for the spread of capitalism.Ross, M.L. Elections without democracy: Thinking about hybrid regimes. (2 , Jan). Failureto do so will result in ongoing resistance to adopting democraticinstitutions and reforms in countries where a history of exploitationexists. Iraq is theperfect example of how religious factionalism and Islamic culture strove torebel against any form of government viewed as being too in line with theWest and its notions of democracy. In the writings of Soroush, Robin Wright maintainsdemocracy in the Islamic world rests on two pillars: "First, to be a truebeliever, one must be free. foreign policy often hinders the spread of democracy in the Middle East and other regions because all too often U.S. Body Larry Diamond (2 2) offers Samuel Huntington's description ofdemocracy as a measure of a democratic nation, "A system is democratic whenits most powerful collective decision makers are selected through fair,honest, and periodic elections in which candidates compete freely forvotes" (p. Thisdependence on oil creates a state that is less democratic and also one thatfails to seek new avenues or reforms toward other economic development. For example, there are many in the Arabnations who view U.S. 136). No longer are peoples of the Middle Eastviewed as individuals who shun self-government. Short of this, it is likely that thedemocratization of the Middle East will continue to represent an uneven andslow going process of change. U.S. This work provides numerous essays that offer different insights into democracy in the Middle East, focusing on whether or not democracy and Islam are compatible or incompatible, the problem oil creates, how religion impacts the process in the region and numerous other issues.Fish, S.F., & Brooks, R.S. As the Bouramands (in Diamond, et al., 2 3)maintain, the people are not viewed as individuals but as the faithful inArab countries, where "There could be no contradiction between the rightsof God and the rights of the people. Contingent democrats: Industrialists, labor, and democratization in late-developing countries. Constitution, another documentthat does not change but interpretations of its laws often change dependingon the cultural, religious, and social conditions of the times. Ross describes why oil and democracy do not mix. The individual's free will andautonomy ceased to be an element of the people. foreign policy, and capitalism are all factors that havecreated an uneven and slow going process of change toward democracy in theMiddle East. It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty: it is pessimism andcondescension, and we should have none of it" (Neep, 2 4, p. History, religion,culture, oil, U.S. Neep discusses how U.S. military actions in Iraq or other parts of the Arabworld as being motivated by economics, particularly oil revenues. As Neep (2 4) argues, "The traditional commitment tofreedom was usually instrumental in nature, adopted as a way to provide anideological basis for America's sometimes grubby Realpolitik. Diamond (2 2) maintains that hybrid regimes are often a façade thatmasks the true nature of rule in such countries, "Virtually all hybridregimes in the world today are quite deliberately pseudodemocratic, in thatthe existence of formally democratic political institutions, such asmultiparty electoral competition, masks (often, in part, to legitimate) thereality of authoritarian domination" (p. Using Huntington's explanation of this theory, Ross (2 1) argues that theconflict between oil and democracy actually serves to reinforce the controlof the authoritarian state, "The democratic trend may bypass the MiddleEast since many of these states depend heavily on oil exports, whichenhances the control of the state bureaucracy" (p. However, the Arab nations the concepts offreedom and will of the people are undermined compared to a conventionaldemocracy because of the significance of the sovereignty of God in Islamicculture and religion. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Univ. Morocco is an excellent exampleof an Arab nation that is no closer to genuine democratic reforms todaythan it was at the middle of the twentieth century. As Eva Bellin (2 )notes of Moore's view of capitalism, "no bourgeoisie, no democracy" (p.176). Conclusion In conclusion, it is readily apparent that there are numerouschallenges to the establishment of real democracy in the nations of theMiddle East. Suchvaluable resources make motives of Western nations suspect when it comes tothe professed aim of establishing genuine democracy and liberal reforms. This providesthem with little or no input into policies constructed by the ruling party,ones that are purported to be based on the will of God. There are numerous religious and cultural elements of Middle Easternnations that undermine democratic principles and reinforce the rule ofauthoritarian regimes that for all intents and purposes are totalitarian.As Fish and Brooks (2 4) explain, "According to their [scholars] analysis,the fusion of temporal and spiritual authority in Islamic thought, thesubordination of women, and a culture of intolerance predispose Muslimsocieties to authoritarianism" (p. Capitalists are more interested in forming liberal kinds of rule tospur economic growth than they are in establishing democracy. One of the biggestreasons for this is that the nature of rule and the nature of politicalinvolvement in such cultures serve to undermine participatory government ormajority rule. 178). Faith constituted thepeople and established the sovereignty of God, whose commands were knownonly by the ayatollahs" (p. This compelledthe presidential palace, which had promised that the opposition would getone-fifth of the seats in parliamentary elections, to resort to changingthe size of electoral districts in order to give the opposition its dueshare of the parliamentary vote" (Diamond, Plattner, & Brumberg, 2 3, p.13). Likewise, extremist factions often subvertthe Koran and the peaceful nature of Allah in order to further their own,often violent, aims. It is the thirdwave of democratization in the modern era" (p. Nevertheless, from capitalism and class stratification to centuriesof religious belief and overdependence on oil, there remain numerouschallenges to the spread of real democracy in the nations of the MiddleEast. 579). In Ross' (2 1) view, theclash of oil and democracy thwarts the spread of democracy in such nations. Another challenge is the complexity of unifying Arab nations underthe umbrella of democracy when each nation often differs radically comparedto the next, in terms of religion, culture, and political structures. Bellin contends Western nations are guilty of encouraging liberal rule to create economic growth more than to spread democracy.Diamond, L. How countries democratize. This analysis will provide an account of the religious andcultural factors that are responsible for creating significant challengesto the adoption of genuine democracy among Middle East nations. One of the biggest obstacles in the Middle East to underminingauthoritarian regimes in favor of democratic institutions and liberalreforms is the dependency on oil as the main economic driver. 325). Instead, reliance on oil as the main source of economic growth helps to reinforce the control of the state bureaucracy and undermine other efforts for economic development. 33 ). 73). For such change to occur, numerousfactors must be overcome from reliance on oil at the expense of other formsof economic development to the façade of free elections that are oftennothing more than corrupted processes that include everything fromassassination of opposition to the stuffing of ballot boxed. at the expense ofother nations. 224, 226). While some nations of the Middle East have adopted democraticinstitutions and liberal reforms to a significant degree, others remainstaunchly opposed to such institutions and reforms. policy as self-servingand hypocritical, something designed to benefit the U.S. As Abdeslam Maghraoui points out on the situation inMorocco, "The Constitution still plainly locates sovereignty with the king,limiting the role of the government and the parliament to managing socialand economic affairs. foreign policy has often been responsible for creatingresistance to democracy among nations who view U.S. Western values perpetuated throughdemocratic and liberal institutions and reforms are often repulsive tothose who remain loyal to traditional religious beliefs and culturalattitudes that remain intolerant of what are viewed as blasphemous Westernideals. The sovereignty of the king in Morocco is similar in its impact atundermining democracy as is the sovereignty of another entity in the Arabworld, God. Does diversity hurt democracy? (2 4, Fall). Annotated Bibliography/ReferencesBellin, E. 78). In many Middle Eastern nations, democratic and liberal reforms andinstitutions have existed to various degrees throughout the twentiethcentury. Yet Hussein's bloody rulebasically quashed any opposition through fear and violence, in order toprovide greater power and wealth to Hussein and Iraqi elites. would live upto its own lofty ideals" (p. 74). This is related to oil as thedriving economic force in the region and the need to create economic growththat creates a ruling class and a working class. 157). However, in a modern and representative democracy thepeople are "the sum of free and equal individuals who, through theirrepresentatives, exercise their natural right to participate in the makingof the laws to which they submit" according to Ladan and Roya Boroumand(Diamond, et al., 2 3, p. Dilemmas of democratization in the Middle East: The "forward strategy of freedom." Middle East Policy, 11(3), 73-84. All too often, such rulers not only subvert thewill of the people to the will of God, but they also are the primarybeneficiaries of oil revenues that stall any efforts toward economic growthfrom implementing liberal and democratic economic reforms and institutions. It may be that once Iraq is able to establish a genuine democracy itwill influence other nations in the region, particularly if it cansuccessfully merge democratic institutions with cultural and religioustraditions in the region. In many countries in the Middle East, democracy has been slow totake hold or absent except on the surface. 137). Nevertheless, even in countries in the Middle East whereelections are held, such elections seldom offer fair, honest, and freecompetition for votes. policymakers thatmaintain a new outlook, one wherein democracy and Islam are compatible. The creation of Marxist economies where the richprofit at the expense of the working class does not promote the idea offreedom and upward mobility promised by democracy. In Middle Eastern nations, thereare often cultural and religious realities that support authoritarianregimes as surely as reliance on oil production dampens efforts towardeconomic liberalization and growth. Huntington (1991-92) maintains that between 1974 and 199 a trend toward democratic systems of government pervaded the world'snations, "This 'global democratic revolution' is probably the mostimportant political trend in the late twentieth century. This samephenomenon, known as the "rentier state" is applicable to other oil-richnations outside the Middle East that resist democratic and liberal reforms,like Argentina (Ross, 2 1, p. In nations like Iraq, numerous coups andbloody overthrows of regimes in power occurred until Saddam Hussein finallyconsolidated power and control in the 197 s. From religion and oilto culture Arab rulers, there are numerous religious and culturalchallenges to establishing pluralistic democracy in the Middle East that iscompatible with Islam. Sovereignty in a king maintains anauthoritarian state and the acceptance of such rule by major political andreligious factions serves to thwart any real movement toward democraticinstitutions or reforms. Belief attested under threat or coercion isnot true belief...[and]...Second, understanding of religion is evolving.Sacred texts do not change, but interpretation of them is always in fluxbecause understanding is influenced by the age and the changing conditionsin which believers live" (Diamond, et al., 2 3, p. The concept of freedom and democracy are firmly intertwined.However, religious views of the "people" as the "faithful" whose collectivewill is subordinate to the will of God, a will known only by theayatollahs, removes the concept of freedom from the masses. World Politics, 52, 175- 2 5. 33 ). (2 2, Apr). As Bellin(2 ) notes, "Egypt and Tunisia possess similar cultural heritages (bothare Sunni Muslim countries, relatively unriven by ethnic cleavage, andsaddled with a long history of West European colonialism), yet organizedlabor exhibits very different attitudes toward democratization in the twocountries" (p. Such nations virtually havelittle means of removing a regime in power short of some form of violentoverthrow of the government. Does oil hinder democracy? Press. AsRoss (2 1) asserts, "oil and democracy do not mix," which is why the high-income states of the Arab nation have failed to implement significantdemocratic reforms or institutions (p. In theMiddle East, even nations with similar cultural traits and values are oftendivided over the issue of capitalism, labor, and industrialism. Such manipulations, regardless of who they favor tend to undermineany forward movement toward the establishment of genuine democracy.However, one can hardly blame regimes in the Middle East for resorting tosuch tactics when, even in the U.S., Republicans tried successfully toredistrict states to favor republican candidates before the lastpresidential election. In thissecond pillar that will help usher in democracy in the Middle East, Soroushcould quite readily be referring to the U.S. The concept of democracy is closely associated with theconcept of people. Ideally, fordemocracy to be viewed as more conducive to equality and freedom, Westernnations must demonstrate that they do more than pay lip service to theprinciples and values of democracy such as equality and freedom. (2 3). Moreover, the major parties have accepted thisdivision of labor and virtually disengaged from the political sphere"(Diamond, et al., 2 3, p. Even so, an attitude shifthas been occurring about the culture and religion of the region and theircompatibility with democracy. (2 4). Democracy in the Middle East Introduction Samuel P. Many of these nations were influenced by Western European nationsduring and era of colonialism, when European officials worked with tribalchiefs and elites to provide a foundation on which democracy could build.As Laith Kubba writes, "For more than three decades, Egypt, Syria, and Iraqhad functioning democracies in which deputies were elected, governmentofficials were held accountable to laws and rules, the judiciary wasindependent, the press was free, and the people enjoyed equality before thelaw and the basic civil and human rights" (Diamond, et al., 2 3, p, 29).However, religious factions, the discovery of oil, and traditional culturalvalues all served to undermine such democratic foundations. As President Bush assertedin one discussion of democracy in the region, "Peoples of the Middle Eastshare a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility, and aneed for freedom as deep as our own. Fish and Brooks argue that there are a number of aspects of Islamic culture that do not mesh well with democratic principles or institutions, from intolerance to subordination of women.Huntington, S.P. 22). Journal of Democracy, 15(1), 154-176. 24).
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