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Democracy Lacking in Muslim World
Variety, yes. True democracy, no.
Aataai Gazi Mahbub (atagam)     Print Article 
Published 2006-11-27 14:35 (KST)   
It is hard to find a purely democratic country in the Muslim world, one that is governed by the people directly or through elected representatives. But pseudo-democracies abound and have various names: "guardian controlled," "military-based," "dictator-based," "religious-based," "unstable," "limited" and "puddle," among others.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman are ruled by kings or emirs. Last year, the first local elections were held in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi people showed that they were hungry for unconditional democracy: 700 candidates competed for only seven seats in Riyadh, the capital. Women, however, were not allowed to vote.

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Yemen is controlled mainly by tribal leaders. In Bahrain, the ruling family holds all the top positions of government. Last year, Kuwait, also with a ruling family, gave voting rights to women.

The socialist Baath party is led by Bashar al-Assad in Syria. He does not allow opposition parties. After the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and the withdrawal of Syrian solders from Lebanon, Iraq and Lebanon moved to establish democracy. In Iraq, Shia Muslims are busy establishing a religious democracy.

Iran is a religious democracy where, except for the spiritual leader, every person, member of parliament, member of local government, speaker and president has to be elected. All of the mechanisms of the state, however, are ruled by a guardian council, which is led by the spiritual leader, who is known as the ayatollah. No one can stand in an election without his permission.

In African Muslim countries, democracy is doing poorly. Egypt and Libya are ruled in the style of "the one-man show." Last year, dictator Hosni Mubarak introduced a new era of democracy in Egypt that is largely cosmetic. Important political parties like the Muslim Brotherhood have been banned. Before the last elections, Mubarak arrested more than 1,500 leaders and workers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The same condition exists in Sudan and Algeria, known as dictator-based democracies. Democracy in Morocco, Tunisia and Tanzania is not doing well, but is stronger than in other states.

Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Morocco have banned religious parties. The Islamic Party, Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Salvation Front, Young Muslim Movement, etc. are very popular in those states. They could be called "religious banned democracy." Turkey's democracy is doing well, but religious parties are not allowed.

In the largest Muslim state, Indonesia, democracy is unstable. Corruption, communal riots and political clashes have plagued Indonesian democracy. In Malaysia, democracy is also limited. Pakistan is ruled by its president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who took power from an elected government through a bloodless coup. Pakistan is ruled under the shadow of the military. Family-based democracy remains in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where major parties are organized by family members.

Brunei is controlled by a sultan. Dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom rules the Maldives. Although elected leaders rule in Bangladesh, there is little room for an opposition party. Afghanistan is a warlord or tribal leader democracy. The people's views are not respected. President Hamid Karzai's power does extend over much the country. He is known as the "mayor of Kabul." He is allegedly dominated by the U.S. administration. Some would call it a "puppet democracy."

Dictatorship is the name of the game in central Asia, which has "voting systems." The six central Asian Muslim countries -- Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan -- are ruled in the style of empire.

The shortage of pure democracy has led to poverty and corruption and has been responsible for Muslim countries remaining underdeveloped. For this reason, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh, which have abundant natural resources, are mired in poverty.

Despite having a lot of wealth, the oil-rich Middle East has not played a significant role in helping the Muslim world develop. It still depends on Western countries in the technology sector. The one nuclear Muslim state, Pakistan, is also dependent upon Western countries. Turkey is not able to meet the European standard for joining the EU.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Aataai Gazi Mahbub

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