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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 08:45, November 11, 2004
Democracy is not coca-cola: Opinion
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On November 5, the United Nations (UN) declared that it would send additional personnel to Iraq to help the general election to be held in Iraq at the end of January next year. The UN indicates that under the current situation, it would dispose sufficient resources in the country so as to perform its responsibility of assistance in the election.

Preparation for the Iraqi election is being carried out intensively, registration of voters formally started on November 1. But UN personages doubt whether the democracy imported through firearms can take root, survive and even blossom and bear fruits in this ancient land of Iraq. In fact it is not hard for people to discover that the democracy railroaded by the United States in Iraq is largely no longer the "US-styled"democracy as described by the American leaders early this year. President Bush's June 30 speech has softened up compared to his previous intransigent stance, as shown in his first indication that there is no need for the Islamic countries to completely copy US-styled democracy. He said: Democracy does not mean automatically and mechanically transplant other forms of democracy, the future freedom of the Islamic countries will be decided by their citizens themselves, not by outsiders.

While the United States is obscuring the standard of democracy it pushes through, the Iraqis hold that democracy is not the question to be urgently settled by the interim government at the moment. The article published in the Washington Post by the prime minister of the Iraqi interim government pointed out that only after first settling the questions related to Iraq's national security, restoration of its economy and independence of the judiciary, will "march toward democracy" be mentioned as the final goal to be attained. The poll published on June 30 this year shows that when asked about the most urgent task in the coming year, only 31 percent of the Iraqis say hat it is democracy, while 50 percent of those surveyed said that what the Iraqis most urgently need is a strong leader.

In the middle of this year, the reason why America disapproved of a nationwide election in Iraq immediately after the transfer of sovereignty was for fear that another anti-US strong man would possibly be elected in the election. The postponement of the election to the beginning of next year was that it hoped the Iraqis could elect a US-supported statesman to be in power after the quiet down of the situation in Iraq.

As things turn out today, the United States is not quite sure of success in its expectation. The reasons are: First, the current situation in Iraq is more turbulent; second, the Shiite followers account for 60 percent of the Iraqi population, any fair election would let the Shiites win victory. It is unrealistic to place hope on the Shiite Iraqis to change in half a year their longstanding belief into support of "US-styled" democracy. As to next year's election in Iraq, what the United States worries most is that it fears a pro-Iran Shiite government would be elected.

Fundamentally speaking, the kind of system of government adopted by a country is determined by the country's specific conditions, subject to the restrictions of the country's geographical environment, the level of economic development, cultural tradition and other factors, the process of the perfection of the political system likewise reflects the actual condition prevailing in the country at the time, the way of graft and transplantation often makes one feel unaccustomed to the climate. During the 1957-64 period, more than 40 newly independent African countries adopted the Western democratic electoral system, but military coups occurred one after another, repudiating such Western-styled democracy.

The Middle East is a target long been aimed at by the United States. But observers pointed out that the Middle East has extremely special and complicated religious factors, the various political forces there restrain each other, each have their own development law and process. Democracy is a slow process based on the actual conditions of various countries, it is not like coca-cola that the normal juice can be transported from the United States to various Middle East countries and turned into products by adding water to it. Chief editor Moises Naim of the US "Foreign Policy" magazine pointed out that the idea of using external interference to solve the Middle East problem has been seriously thwarted. The idea of forcibly popularizing democracy in this region through launching war in Iraq is even harder to be accepted by the locals. It will be hard for the United States to lift itself out of the quagmire after the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq and even after the election in the country next year. The Iraqi democratic process will be slow, the Iraqi political system after election can hardly be a democratic mode as flaunted by the United States.

Printed on page 3 of People's Daily November 10, 2004, this article is translated by People's Daily Online

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