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Democracy is best solution

Jan 09,2014 - Last updated at Jan 09,2014

Democracy’s limitations are well-known. Majority rule could mean injustice for the minority, and democracy tends to favour the wealthy and the strong.

The quality and integrity of democracy also depend on the quality and integrity of the people’s representatives.

A number of intellectuals and writers in our part of the world argue that since democracy is not homegrown, it may not be the best, most relevant, system for us. Transplantation may work in some spheres and not in others.

Moreover, varied democratic systems exist in varied countries. Which system should we choose that would be most relevant? And there are other qualms and complications with respect to democracy.

Having said this, however, one should also say that democracy seems to be the only system of governance that guarantees a society’s stability and security.

Any viable system of democracy anywhere in the world, no matter how flawed or imperfect, achieves this basic human need.

This is evident in all long-established Western democracies, but it is also evident in the case of new Southeast Asian democracies.

In the Arab world, countries that have made significant strides towards democracy, such as Jordan and Kuwait, succeeded in achieving an acceptable, if not admirable, level of security and stability.

Of course, life is not just about security and stability.

Development, progress and prosperity are also essential. But security and stability come first, and without them there can be no moving forward.

Democracy brings about security and stability because it enables most — in some cases all — political segments of society to participate. Participation, in turn, enables all divergent and differing groups to try to sort out their conflicting demands and differences peacefully.

A few years ago, many among us might not have appreciated this virtue that democracy brings about. Today, however, and as a result of what we have seen and still see in several Arab countries, most people have begun to understand, value and cherish the importance of security and stability.

There is a deadlock now, in varying degrees, in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. There is also chaos and bloodshed in Libya, Iraq and Syria. One major cause for this is the absence of democracy, or a basic level of it that allows all those who hold opposing political views and aspirations to settle their differences, not chaotically and uncivilly in the streets, or violently in the battlefield, but civilly and peacefully in the Parliament and the relevant political arenas.

Democracy does not erase differences or eradicate rivalry. In some ways, it in fact fosters them.

What happens in the American Congress or the British parliament is a case in point. But democracy compels the various opposed or conflicting parties to act out such differences and interact civilly and non-violently. And this makes a huge difference.

For this and many other reasons, democracy is urgent for those Arab countries that are coming to terms with their divergent positions or differences in uncivil, violent and destructive means.

Obviously, the Arab countries that achieved a degree of democracy and thus an acceptable or good level of security and stability should not become complacent and stop at that. They should do all they can to democratise more and achieve more development and progress.

Democracy is far from perfect, but relatively and practically, it is the best and most urgent solution under the circumstances.

Without it, several countries in our region will continue to suffer and disintegrate, rather than develop and progress.

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