Beware the Results of Arab Democracy

(Ha'aretz) Tony Karon - Nobody wants to confront the obvious about what long-denied Arab electorates will choose if given the opportunity to vote. While we should all hail the fact that people are voting, the tendency in Washington is to ignore what they're actually voting for. Hizballah is the single largest party in Lebanon's parliament, representing the bulk of a Shi'ite community that constitutes nearly one-half of Lebanon's population, and its overwhelming priority is to stop Pax Americana replacing Pax Syriana. In Iraq, the U.S.-backed candidate, Iyad Allawi, won only 14% of the seats in the National Assembly. A 53% majority of seats went to Shi'ite Islamists with historic ties to Iran, and some 42% of the eligible electorate stayed away from the polls. Mubarak's greatest challenge, if Egypt were a genuine democracy, wouldn't come from the liberal democrats of the Ayman Nour variety, but from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The same is probably true in Syria. It's highly likely that after July's legislative elections, Abbas will be answerable to a legislature in which the combination of Hamas and the more militant element of Fatah are a majority. The idea that democracy will produce an Arab leadership more in tune with American foreign policy than those currently in power is a self-serving fantasy. It's not out of a desire to follow the U.S. example, but because of the desire to repudiate it and the self-serving local elites it has long sustained, that much of the Arab world is now demanding its democratic rights.

2005-03-18 00:00:00

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