By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
26 April 2014
Election carnivals are sweeping the Arab world, from Mauritania to Algeria to Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Ballot boxes are the greatest trick dictators used to stay in power, and many people fell for it.
This week, Mauritanian President Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz decided to hold new elections, ignoring the fact that no one recognized the results of the previous ones he held. In Algeria as well, President Bouteflika won the presidential elections for the fourth term. Despite his illness, Bouteflika insisted on voting for himself.
Next month, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, almost unrivaled, will be waiting for Egyptians to choose him as their sixth president. Then there is the Syrian president announcing his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, after slaughtering a quarter of a million people and rendering 9 million people homeless.
As for Libya, the former elected prime minister fled to Germany after receiving death threats, and the Prime Minister-designate resigned later on for the same reason.
Still a Believer
The question remains, do you still believe in democracy around you? This is an old story that Britain tried to impose in the first decades of the 20th Century in Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Iraq. The Americans tried to do the same in Iraq and consequently, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has grabbed more power than the former dictator Saddam Hussein, whose toppling cost amounted to a trillion dollars.
From Syria to Mauritania and South Sudan, Arab republics are the outcome of the religious and militant institutions. As long as these two institutions maintain the grip on power, the region will never advance into an era of civilized democracy.
Egypt is a typical example: following Tahrir Square’s angry demonstrations that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, people resorted to the ballot box to choose their next president. The first elections crowned a fascist religious party to rule the country, refuting the same democracy that got the party to power.
At that point, millions of people, again, protested against the theocratic rule, and army emerged as their only savior.
Another great example of the religious militant monster was Sudan. Omar al-Bashir and Sheikh Hassan al-Turabi ruled Sudan in the late 1980s. Al-Bashir wanted to seize all the power, which led to endless crisis. Fearing his ouster, he formed a bilateral alliance again.
In Libya, politically immature extremist religious groups are trying to take over the rule by terrorizing parliamentarians, ministers and embassies.
These groups have succeeded in sabotaging the situation by being armed and staying in the Parliament. They tried to rule though militias, the same way Qaddafi governed the country.
The Arab democracy crisis, whether real or false, will often lead to repressive regimes, led by religious men or militants.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.