On the ground, democracy has not yet succeeded in our Arab countries, nor has it yielded fruit. Rather, the Arab political environment has remained a state of discord, unable to bear fruit. Some believe and justify this by saying that democracy is a Western system that does not suit the Arab environment, and that Arab history has proven that what suits us is a just dictator. Is this description correct?
The idea of a just dictator may be logical at first glance, as this proposal is based on the idea of the existence of a resolute dictator with a keen opinion, who possesses wisdom, strength, a living conscience, and a sensitive human sense capable of justice and fairness, and the ability to renew thought, programs, and projects. But this personality may be nothing more than A dreamy, utopian state that cannot exist in reality.
At the same time, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and dictatorship is the first step on the ladder of injustice and corruption. Dictatorship and individual rule are the ideal environment in which injustice, corruption, mismanagement, and chaos live, spread, and expand, and then collapse, and history is witness to all of that.
When researching and tracking modern Arab experiences in trying to create a true democratic life, we found the causes of stumbling, failure, and setback that befell these modern Arab experiences confined to many of them, as follows:
The lack of clarity of the democratic idea in the hearts of the people, which is the basic foundation of the democratic process, as the people are the basis of the democratic process, which means the rule of the people themselves.
The lack of clarity of the idea of democracy in governance and the peaceful transfer of power. The Arab peoples’ asceticism in democracy and the struggle for it until we found some people chanting against the institutions and authorities that elected them when the tyrannical forces incited them against the democratic institutions.
The lack of clarity of the idea of democracy among the Arab elites who lead the people. The Arab elites who were born in the eras of Arab tyranny – for the most part – are ideological, non-programmatic elites, divided between secular, liberal elites, each aiming to maximize personal freedoms, especially sexual freedoms, and fighting conservative environments, and elites Islamism does not care about personal freedoms, and attempts to impose a specific pattern of social behavior on people’s lives and livelihoods.
For a long time, these elites viewed democracy as a kind of Western cultural invasion that must be resisted, and adhered to the idea of contrasts between Islamic civilization and Western civilization. While leftist Arab elites view democracy with contempt, and believe that tank force is the safest means and the easiest path to rule and stability.
These elites also reduce democracy to be the box and its results, and reject the idea that democracy is, as it is, the box and majority rule. It is also early elections in cases of political impediment, and early resignation and apology in cases of failure.
Most Arab elites view each other as opponents who enter into a zero-sum conflict with each other. All that matters to them is how they fail each other, until they have reached a stage of resorting to tyranny over each other.
This deteriorating situation in which the elites are living and the lack of clarity of the idea and practices of democracy tempted Arab tyranny, empowered it, and gave it the golden opportunity to tighten its control over the reins of government after the Arab revolutions.
Usability of political elites: Many Arab elites have not experienced a state of real political struggle for democracy and sacrifice for it. We find many members of ideological movements who dispute democratic thought in order to draw the attention of the ruler to them, and as soon as the tyrant suggests that they participate with him in governance and share the spoils. Until many of them turn against the idea of democracy and try to embellish the state of tyranny and justify it among the people under different names, showing understanding of it.
The backwardness of electoral systems in Arab countries: After the Arab peoples brought about the revolution, it became clear that the political and legal elites do not have the details of what they want. They are elites who know what they do not want, but they do not know what they want.
This situation is a natural result of the state of great political poverty left by tyrannical regimes and affecting all classes of society. All these tyrannical regimes were doing was destroying any state of awareness or democratic life in the future, even after their departure, and they succeeded in doing so.
There was a lack of awareness and understanding of the most important rules of governance in republican regimes, as the philosophy of democratic republican regimes is based on the idea that the president is the one who carries out the duties of governance himself, and in order for him to be able to do so, all deep state institutions must be in harmony with him in the program and vision.
The electoral systems that the revolutionary forces brought in focused on how to bring an elected president to power, but they were not aware of the importance of how to enable the elected president to truly rule. There is no rule for a president without the deep state being under his directives and decisions and the appointment and dismissal of its leaders.
As for the Arab parliamentary governance systems, we found how the philosophy of parliamentary governance has been emptied of its essence, which was based on the idea that the majority is the one that rules, legislates, protects and supports the plan of those who rule, and that the minority is the one that monitors and opposes, and all of this can only happen. Through an electoral system that produces a majority and a minority within Parliament.
This situation was absent from the Arab parliamentary systems, most of which produced parliaments – suspended in the political sense – in which no party had a parliamentary majority, which prompted the political forces to go to coalition governments and quota governments, and the results of the implementation were the ugliest picture of parliamentary rule.
All of this was the result of a defect in legislation and electoral systems, and the absence of an electoral threshold or a high electoral threshold in the electoral systems in the first place. Parliaments of scattered political minorities were born, unable to rule.
The hijacking of Arab democratic experiences by groups that corrupt democratic work. Democracy cannot give real results unless it is based on a state of jostling between those who provide the best in collecting, managing, and redistributing public money. This can only happen with a programmatic discourse away from four groups that corrupt democracy and philosophy. For which democracy was established, which is: “Who has the hard power, who has the spiritual thorn, who has the influence of the tribe and blood ties, and who presents the populist discourse.”
Democracy is corrupted by anyone who is able to use hard power to resolve conflicts and a state of conflict with his rival in the democratic race. Everyone who has the ability to harness hard power and weapons to resolve his conflict with his opponents and resolve the competition in his favor and in favor of those in his orbit and alliance, whether from a military background or Civilian, he will ruin his democracy, because when the gun and hard power are present, the strength of the program and proposal is absent, and democracy is emptied of its value and philosophy.
The cleric can also be defined as anyone who has a spiritual spark in the hearts of the public. Whoever has a spiritual spark in the souls of his followers, his competition will be dysfunctional and decided in favor of holiness and the spiritual spark, and there will be no scramble over the validity of the program and who can serve the people. We found how Iraqi democracy fell and was emptied of Its goal and purpose.
Tribal rule: Tribes are social components whose goal is cooperation and social solidarity. Harnessing blood ties and tribalism in Arab electoral battles contradicts the idea and philosophy of democracy. Using the tribe to prove the tribe’s power, influence, strength, and control, and transforming it from social entities into seasonal political entities in electoral battles, makes the democratic process lose its reason and spoils its outcomes.
Also, the growth of political populism and its spread among the Arab peoples – and the attempt to portray democracy as a magic wand to quickly solve people’s problems, requirements, and what they aspire to – had an impact in demolishing the entire democratic process. We found how political populism was able, in times of tide, to bring some of the peoples of the Arab revolutions to the point of chanting: It is against democracy, supports and applauds one-man rule, and supports the dismantling of state institutions in favor of individual rule.
Western democracy was able to set clear standards to keep the use of force and the clergy from hijacking the democratic process, and it did not have the problem of the tribe given the Western demographic structure, but it has not yet been able to neutralize money and decisively protect itself from businessmen, even if there are legislative attempts to mitigate The situation, but it did not eliminate the role of money in corrupting the political process, so legislation was put in place that imposes a certain limit on electoral propaganda, announcing the sources of funding, prohibiting external financing of electoral campaigns, criminalizing the purchase of political receivables and black money…etc.
Populism in the West still affects the democratic process and election results from time to time to different extents, but certainly their populism has not reached the level of hostility to democracy and undermining it as happened in the Arab countries, with the exception of Trump’s attempt, which was confronted by the rule of established institutions and the prosecution of the judiciary.
To build a true and influential Arab democratic state, we need to transform democracy into a culture and life behavior by disseminating its knowledge and sciences at all levels of school and university education, and maturing the Arab political elites so that democracy has a strategic path in expressing their ideas and projects.
At the same time, we need to establish strict legislation and political principles that protect the democratic process from its four corruptors: “the use of hard power, clergy, tribe, and cheap political populism.”