Are Arab Nations Clamoring For Democracy Or Freedom?
The West Misunderstands Roots Of Arab Spring
Fraser Nelson contends the Arab Spring did not pour into the streets n 2011 in pursuit of a democracy. Rather, what they were pursuing was “freedom, not necessarily democracy – and the distinction between the two is crucial.”
Writing in The London Telegraph, Nelson says Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian man who inspired the Arab Spring when he set himself alight, is a case in point.
“As his family attest, he had no interest in politics. The freedom he wanted was the right to buy and sell, and to build his business without having to pay bribes to the police or fear having his goods confiscated at random. If he was a martyr to anything, it was to capitalism,” Nelson asserts.
Barney Zwartz of The Age shares Nelson’s conclusion that the West misunderstands the roots of the Arab Spring. Zwartz cites George Mason University Professor Peter Mandaville in making his case that Arabs seek stability and basic services, rather than the freedom and democracy.
Mandaville said in a recent speech that those “who thronged Tahrir Square [in Cairo] in 2011 were not after democracy but a government that would be accountable and get things done.”
Nelson also maintains that the “façade of democracy can be horribly deceptive; it is the strength of institutions that decides if nations rise or fall.”
Is Egypt Ready For Democracy?
When asked whether Egypt is “ready for democracy,” Dr Larbi Sadiki, a Senior Lecturer in Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter, and author of Arab Democratization: Elections without Democracy, argues that the question cannot be answered because the “route to democracy is not linear” and the situation in Egypt does not lend itself to black-and-white conclusions.
“[Democracy] is long, complex and fraught with obstacles, embracing both highs and lows. The journey to democracy, past and present, affirms this. I don’t really think Egyptians have something in their character that lends itself to inhospitality to democracy and democratization. Definitely, what has happened in Egypt has stunted a fledgling democratization process. I’m pretty sure that the Egyptian people have the means to reclaim their power and restore the democratization process,” he said in a recent interview with Al-Jazeera.