Are Arabs not eligible for Western democracy?
“These people,” said Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, talking about Egyptians, “will sooner or later win their struggle for democracy. The West has to understand this if they want to pass the democracy test. If the West does not take sincere steps, democracy will be questioned throughout the world.”
Erdoğan was having difficulty hiding his anger during the press conference Aug. 15 as he left for Turkmenistan, where he commented on the Aug. 14 bloodbath in Cairo the day Egyptian security forces used incredible force to disperse the demonstrators supporting Mohamed Morsi, who had been ousted from power by a military coup July 3. The target of the anger was “the West”; practically meaning the U.S. and Western European countries. Erdoğan thinks that Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Morsi’s choice as the head of the military who actually toppled him, found hidden and precious support from the West as the U.S. and the European Union did not even name the coup as such. Still Erdoğan did not hit much at Arab autocracies, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that had given open support for al-Sisi’s coup.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government in Turkey that in a way inspired the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to reach power through Western-style democratic elections, believe that “the West” did everything possible for Morsi to fail, including curbing credit, because Morsi represented the democratic will of Muslims in Arab societies.
Perhaps that is why Erdoğan jumped into the example of Hamas and Gazan Palestine at the press conference. He said the West had been putting pressure on him to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization, but he believes Hamas won power through voting. “It is not that they do not want to have elections in Palestine again,” Erdoğan said, “because they can guess the result, too.” It is of course interesting that Erdoğan made this point on the day that officials authorized by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah were having talks with Israelis about a plan supported by the U.S., leaving Hamas out, which has already been weakened by the toppling of Morsi in Cairo.
Erdoğan is obviously angry that Hamas (and also Turkey) is not in the circuit for this round of Israeli-Palestinian talks, but he has a point, too. Ignoring Islamists’ winning elections had actually started in January 1992 when the Algerian military canceled the elections that had been won by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS); later on a bloody civil war began in Algeria. There is a similar story with Hezbollah in Lebanon, with a caveat that guns and votes are too much into each other there.
There is an important detail here as the weakness of secular understanding of separating religion from state affairs, but more important is the eligibility of votes used by the citizens. The separation of powers is another important aspect of Western democracies, but above all of that Arabs and Muslim Arabs as any other people on earth should have equal voting power as in Western democracies.
As people will lose confidence in the changing power of their own votes, then at least some more of them will start to look into other directions that keep telling them that the only power that Westerners actually understand is firepower, or methods of terrorism. This is really a test for everyone, not only the West.