Democracy in the Muslim world
With news story after news story covering all of the violence in the Middle East and North Africa, it is too easy to accept the notions that democracy and consensus governance cannot exist in the Muslim world due to culture. Where failures in national security interests drive violence in places like Egypt and Libya, most other Arab Spring countries have successfully suppressed populous uprisings while Turkey, as a democratic success, is tainted by a massive corruption scandal. While Iraq and Syria represent the most pressing threat to regional stability, the war between Hamas and Israel has garnered the attention of the world, because it puts the US, which is the UN’s most influential player, in an awkward position as we attempt to deal with the Ukrainian Crisis, among many crises.
Israel’s inability and/or unwillingness to engage Hamas without bombing and firing on numerous civilians targets means the International Community’s growing distaste for the actions of Israel’s could translate into punitive measures like economic sanctions. Choosing between global credibility and political pressure from those who view Israel to be inculpable, it is dubious that the Obama Administration would even allow sanctions to have a serious effect on Israel’s economy, i.e. he might use US dollars to prop up Israel’s economy, let alone allow the UN to act on consensus.
That said, the election of national newcomer Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo to the Indonesian Presidency is quite an encouraging sign, especially given that the nation is home to over 240 million people of whom most are Muslim. Certainly, the tendency for power elites to oppose outcomes unfavorable to their traditional rule and offer resistance to policy shifts for the public good that potentially threaten their ability to maintain their privilege is quite evident with candidate General Prabowo Subianto’s seemingly baseless charges of election fraud, but the election of a People’s candidate with 53% of the vote may well be exactly what Indonesian democracy needs to thrive.
While advisors can fill in for Mr. Widodo’s resume gaps, he brings both the support of the People and an innate understanding of the People’s interests in a broader sense than what the traditional power elites could. Although all societies rely on the ability of their governments to successfully balance the many competing interests of their People, democracies rely on the ability of the People to be heard and to feel as though their government is listening. At the same time, this election shows civil discourse in the Muslim world can win over mass violence when a conflict arises.
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