Special report on the
Is democracy picking up?
Francisco S. Tatad
At the invitation of the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, conveyed thru the Qatari ambassador in Manila, Abdulla Ahmed Al-Muttawa, I attended the 7th Doha forum on democracy, development and free trade on April 23-25, 2007. This was the seventh annual round of what undoubtedly is the most focused and fascinating discussion on these issues at this time anywhere in the world.
The Emir opened the forum, followed by President Taria Halonen of
Non--Arab participation stretched around the globe, from Asia to Africa, through
Covered live by Al Jazeera,
The sentiment was strong. But the question was whether democracy should be imposed from outside, and whether or not those calling for it were credible enough. Jack Straw said no two democracies had ever gone to war against each other. To which Moussa quickly replied: “But have you not seen so many democracies attacking other countries? You cannot use democracy as an excuse to attack and rule others.”
In the most pungent remark at the forum, an Arab university professor said that while the
A Canada-based Iraqi professor said democracy could not take root in a region where people were being “slaughtered” in its name.
Recalling the Allied Powers’ role in postwar
If the Middle East is so highly penetrated, it’s because its geopolitical importance makes intervention inevitable, an Islamist scholar from
In a globalizing world, democracy has ceased to be a “Western thing.” It is now the common patrimony of mankind. But in a region rich in history and culture, and ruled for ages through hereditary succession, the transfer of political power through regular elections, which is basic to a democracy, is not an easy or simple question. This does not exempt certain forms of government from governing well.
The Arabs alone will decide how fast and in what direction they will go. But a great deal will depend on how they perceive the performance of the practicing democracies. The pace could pick up if the region sees the democracies becoming irrevocably linked to the promotion and defense of human dignity and human rights, the genuine search for peace, the just sharing of knowledge and resources, and the determined effort to make the dialogue of nations, cultures, and civilizations produce the desired results. Yet it could slacken if the democracies become identified with the moral corruption of society or the arrogant use of power.
I am confident that, at the very least, some variant will take root in the
Indeed, it worries me no end when a country that had first sought to establish a democratic government upon its revolution against Spain in 1898, lost it to the next colonial master, but regained it 48 years later, and became known since then as the “showcase of democracy” in the Third World is now beginning to look like a failed state.