Egypt’s chance

Democracy is best defined, in my opinion, by Lincoln’s timeless phrase from his Gettysburg Address as

‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’.

The key phrase in this definition is ‘the people’. It is a bit sparse but that eliminates any opening for sophistry or legalistic parsing or, heaven forfend, theological mental reservations.

‘The people’ means just that, ‘the people’. All of them. Not your tribe or cohort or clique. Not the majority that elected you

Participating in elections and winning them does not make you a democrat. Governing in the long term interests of all of the people is what makes you a democrat. That and giving up power gracefully when the electorate push you off the perch…..

Revolutions are brutal, ugly things that come wrapped in a shiny layer of hope and excitement. Simon Schama has a fine article about it in the FT. The Egyptian revolution has so far looked exactly like every other that has gone before.

In the chaos that obtains at a time like this, we should be grateful for the small mercies that mean we have not yet seen a ‘Terror’ or a famine. That does not excuse Mr Morsi from the sins of grabbing power and governing exclusively in the interests of his own faction.

Agreed, the army’s intervention has done nothing to advance the cause of ‘selling’ democracy to Islamic fundamentalists. But I do not think many of them were in the market for a new methodology of governance.

There is a slim chance that the ‘reset button’ that the Army has pressed might allow for a fair and competent and unprejudiced administration to eliminate some of the economic and social injustices that the Mubarak regime imposed, and the Morsi regime was refining, which are the principal causes of dissent and dissatisfaction amongst Egyptians.

Democracy’s best hope is that fairness will beget fairness and we know well that extremism only begets extremism. That said, I would not wager much on democracy’s chances in the Middle East. Democracy is a delicate flower that takes a long time to take root in carefully constructed vessel of finely balanced tensions. The hot arid passions of the region offer no such succour.

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