Written by Rebut

Sunday, 1 August 2004

One of the pillars upon which pre-emptive strikes into so-called hotspots was being based, is the desire to introduce democracy into states which had previously toiled under dictators.

If we leave aside for this exercise, the fact that many British and Americans believe that their governments misrepresented the facts to them in order to obtain permission to launch the offensive, many more believe that the war was justified in that it will replace Saddam with a democratically elected government.

While I believe that the war was necessary for reasons not to be debated here, the issue of democracy does not even begin to feature in my thinking. If anything I am opposed to it being introduced in the way that is being done now.

Democracy as we all know is a form of government. Ordinary citizens taking part in the running of their country. In America, Australia, the European Union member states we find what is styled as 'Liberal Democracy'.

In addition we have regard to what is the de facto government of a country. If Canada has a monarchy this does not detract from her having a freely elected parliment.

It is on the ground that I believe the problems for democracy occur in transplanting it. In South Africa everyone has a vote. At close of play, votes are counted and the parties allocated seats in accordance with the proportion of votes they received when measured as a percentage of the total vote.

In Britain people vote in constituencies where votes count for that area only. The winner of the vote goes to parliment. This could mean a party wins by far the most votes but due to the way the map is drawn, too many votes occur in too few regions. They win seats but lose the overall election.

Bush versus Kerry is going to be all about eletoral colleges. As we saw last time out a President can win through with less votes.

So which is fair South Africa, America or Great Britain? The answer is that whatever system the country prefers is the best. If they don't like it they can change it.

Why then does this not find application in Iraq? Two reasons and both refer to facts on the ground. Firstly the people of Iraq do not have a tradition of going to the ballot box to remedy their problems. They were neither given the opportunity nor, as we shall see, saw it as a safe route to achieve their goals.

Iraq, which I'm merely using as an example due it being topical, is made up of Kurds, Sunni and Shia Muslims.

In addition to religous problems we are also concerned with tribal issues. The Shia is the majority and wants to keep Iraq as a sovereign state.

The Sunni, smaller in numbers would like to form part of a greater Arabia. In overall Muslim terms Sunni's far outnumber Shia. The concept of a Caliphate as per Osama bin Laden would not fall on deaf ears where they are concerned.

Lastly the Kurds who suffered horrendous oppression and mass murder during Hussein's reign. They would like a single federal country made of states with many important powers vesting in each state government.

It is for these very problems, which threatened to break up Iraq, that it was decided to place and strengthen Saddam Hussein. He was a strongman who could keep everybody together by force and more importantly keep neighbouring Iran in check.

That has not altered. The Sunni and Kurds are at present staring down the barrel of a gun. The Shia will undoubtedly take the majority and are certainly not going to hand out favours to the Sunni's who persecuted them or water down the power of Baghdad by affording far reaching powers to states.

In addition Iraq is surrounded by states with Sunni majorities. Iran being the notable exception. Should their be a civil war for example the Iraqi's would be looking at enemies on all sides : Iran historically and the rest on religous grounds. Within Iraq a substantial minority backed by enormous numbers of their co-religionists beating out the Shia majority and replacing it with what?

Democracy is a system which operates well within western and European countries. That does not make it right for everyone. It is wrong for Iraq because it cannot be sustained where sizeable minorities have been raised to believe in fighting for their rights. If they don't like the election results they won't be going out to canvas for next time out.

In order for democracy to succeed in Muslim countries it needs the concept to be introduced and sold by Muslims to Muslims. Once educated to it's benefits it has a chance to work. If not you will need 140 000 willing sun tanners for an indefinite period.

As for the planet, it is in my humble opinion better to have a "benign" dictator who would hold the country together and offer balance to some of the hostile powers in the region. If that oil doesn't flow you can whistle whatever you like - Democracy 0 Empire Strikes Back 1.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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