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Democracy: When should it happen?

Fahad Deghaither

Published: Updated:

It seems, at least for the time being, that there is no hope on the horizon for Iraq, Lebanon and Libya to emerge from the depths they have sunken to politically, economically and socially. In Iraq, since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, sectarianism has prevailed while the country and its higher interests have been overlooked. The political parties loyal to Iran, that are closer to militias than actual parties, have sadly allowed Iraq to become a portal, or a colony, for the Islamic Republic, enabling it to bypass sanctions. Lebanon has already turned into a suburb of Tehran, where extortion rules, and those who voice their opposition are silenced with bullets and car bombs. This settling of scores reminds us of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn in the 1960s, when the Mafia ruled New York. The same goes for Libya and the huge number of conflicts, foreign interventions and treasonous allegiances within that country. As for Iran’s democracy, it does not even merit discussion because it is a joke that everyone is weary of.

Head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohamed Raad gestures as he speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda. (Reuters)
Head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohamed Raad gestures as he speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda. (Reuters)

Hezbollah’s entry into Parliament and its representation in a number of ministries in Lebanon, as well as the Popular Mobilization Forces and pro-Iranian blocs in Iraq, came under the umbrella of democracy, freedom and ballot boxes.

After today, there is no doubt that the practice of democracy in most third world countries needs the right timing. Its practice is not meant to precede the establishment of the constitution, the building of human capital and the economy in general, but rather, comes to preserve, maintain and grow these elements after they are instituted. No one wants to put on clean clothes over dirty underwear and a body that is filthy and disease-ridden. In several cases in these countries, the temporary overthrow of democracy may be necessary when major setbacks occur, as is the case in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and others. Building or restoring democracy in these countries and consecrating the principles of human and economic development as top priorities require a strong, firm and just dictatorial regime that regulates the pace or restores balance, and, subsequently, delivers the country to a democratic system.

Because the opposite dynamic holds true, the introduction of premature democracy in failed states entrenches this failure rather than remedying it. The average voter will cast a vote based on slogans and slippery promises, and not on a reality witnessed on the ground because this reality does not exist. The freedoms guaranteed by democratic systems in the West are exploited by a few groups that may have been the reason for this failure and continue under their umbrella to exert influence. In Iraq, after the fall of Saddam, a just and strong leader was needed to rebuild Iraq, adopt an effective constitution and uphold true patriotism before giving mercenaries and sectarians any chance to plunder the country and its wealth through ballot boxes.

Vehicles drive near the grain silo that was damaged during Beirut port explosion, in Beirut, April 9, 2021. (Reuters)
Vehicles drive near the grain silo that was damaged during Beirut port explosion, in Beirut, April 9, 2021. (Reuters)

In Lebanon, too, what should have happened is the advent of a strong and just military leader that would reclaim control of the country after any of the massive disasters that have devastated Lebanon, the last and not least of which was the explosion in the port of Beirut.

What I want to make clear here is that behind any failure in any country or even any commercial establishment, the “mercenary” heroes are guaranteed survival, freedom and the ability to practice extortion by the tolerant existing system. Unless a new ruler comes to apply some form of martial law (state of emergency) and takes the initiative to clean and rebuild the house, no change will occur and this house may even crumble later on. Why do we see that those most devoted to democracy in the aforementioned countries are those who get the most personal gain from it without being held accountable or punished under the umbrella of the same principles guaranteed by the democratic system?

South Korea, which has impressed the world with its progress and growth, did not allow democracy until after the rebuilding of the country at the end of the Korean War with a strong military dictator behind it. What makes democracy effective, as in the West, for example, is that it is practiced after the people have realized where interests lie and how they are preserved after devastating world wars, huge reconstruction projects and flexible constitutions.

The awareness of the importance of voting that the voter must have is not complete or mature until the citizen lives the life they aspire to, enjoy the gains that the country has provided them and realize where threats lie. This all helps the citizen identify the electoral programs required to preserve these achievements and who deserves their vote in the ballot boxes.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi daily outlet Okaz.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.