‘Ballotization’ is not democratization

‘Ballotization’ is not democratization

President Barack Obama may have failed to democratize the Middle East, but he has certainly helped parts of the Arab world “ballotize,” which Arab or non-Arab leaders think is the free will of their peoples – as long as their own supporters are in the majority.

For instance, the ballotization in Iraq ultimately brought to power a government allied with Iran; the ballotization in the Palestinian Authority brought to power Hamas, an organization recognized by the West as a terrorist entity and which is committed to the destruction of Israel. A future ballotization in Syria could either “democratically” re-establish Bashar al-Assad’s rule or replace him with a blend of al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni Islamists.

Egypt’s first democratically-elected leader has been undemocratically ousted because he, too, had perceived democracy merely as ballotization. And of course the big question remains unanswered: If the Maghreb, Egyptians, Palestinians and Syrians deserve the ballot box, why do the Saudis, Jordanians, Bahrainis and smaller Gulf nations not?

I am curious to know if the ideological leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, thinks that millions of Muslim Egyptians have suddenly become atheists who shamelessly stand against God. Only a couple of weeks ago, Mr. al-Qaradawi, president of the Association of Muslim Scholars, warned Turkish protesters that by protesting “they were acting against Allah’s will.” This man who generously interprets Allah’s will for us mortals (and free of charge!) should have an explanation for what has been going on in his own country.

Meanwhile, Gehad al-Haddad, official spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said, “We will not allow the will of the Egyptian people to be bullied by the military.” In this equation, we have God’s will, which is also the Egyptian people’s will against the military’s will and other Egyptian people’s will. Sounds familiar.

Only hours before the military coup in Egypt, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement to support the Turkish leaders’ Muslim brother, Mohamed Morsi: “We supported the free will of Egyptians in the Jan. 25 revolution.” Even this presumably diplomatic note failed to explain why Turkey did not support the free will of “the other Egyptians” in the June 25 revolution which unpleasantly ended up in a military takeover. Does Ankara support revolutions only when they take place in winter months? Are Arab Springs nice but Arab Summers distasteful?

But that’s only normal. For the Islamists, “free will of nations” means a carte blanche given to an Islamist leader by an arithmetic majority to forcibly Islamize the entire society. The free will of nations simply means crude majoritarianism over pluralism. That’s ballotization, not democratization; and this process can take too long before any hope for democratization appears.

Turkey’s own ballotization started in 1950 and, after 3.75 military coups, it is still in progress. So painfully in progress that 63 years later, the country’s most popular leader’s explanation for the nationwide protest campaign cheerfully conducted by millions of young Turks is: “It’s our fault... We have failed to teach them our traditions.” That’s the usual, quick and easy recipe of the Orient: Teach your youth your traditions so they will never rise up against you – simple devout bricks on your wall of political Islam.

And it is precisely because the Turkish ballotization is still in progress that a police summary of proceedings on the protests claims that “the protesters wanted to destroy the constitutional regime by intending to revolt after having created chaos... and the opposition parties, NGOs, artists, CNN, BBC, The Economist were also responsible [for destroying Turkey’s constitutional regime].”

Turkey has failed to be a role model for Egypt. Let’s hope Egypt does not become one for Turkey. But one thing is certain: neither Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nor his unluckier Brotherhood comrade Mr. Morsi will see in their lifetimes the kind of generations they dream of raising.