Democracy under siege

Until Arab regimes embody the people they purport to represent they will remain fearful of them, writes Ayman El-Amir*–from Al Ahram

Democracy in the Arab world is in a bind. It is taking one step forward and two steps back. Although the silent majority is growing more active and increasingly restive, its yearning for democratic change has no sense of direction except, perhaps, the Islamist way. It has been tantalised by two examples of democratic and peaceful change, first in Mauritania and more recently in secular Turkey. However, it does not have the institutional power structure to emulate these experiences. For the past decade, conditioned political parties, opposition movements, factory workers and professional unions have staged demonstrations, protests and strikes, clashed with government troops and filed lawsuits in courts, but have been skilfully outmanoeuvred and contained by the regimes in power. Government-licensed political parties have little to no access to genuine power sharing leading to peaceful change.