The Future of Democracy in the Middle East: Between Violence and Peace

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The president of Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development for Peace, Hassan Fartousi, was invited by the Scandinavian Institute for Human Rights to present a paper at the Symposium entitled “The Future of Democracy in the Middle East” with the participation of a group of intellectuals, researchers and jurists in Geneva (22-23 September 2018). The topic of the paper is “The Future of Democracy in the Middle East between Violence and Peace”, the briefing of the paper: 

“The Future of Democracy in the Middle East. Between Violence and Peace”

We live today in a world full of divisions, dangers, threats and confusion, which has suffered a great deal of turmoil and faces great problems, including the spread of violence, conflict zones, terrorist groups, sectarian and sectarian unrest, extremism and hatred. Also, it suffers from persistent obstacles in development, security stability, the failure of regimes, and the crisis of governance and its efficiency, which has become weaker than ever and has become an open arena for political and ideological clashes and a hotbed of regional and international confrontations.

Plus, we can see conflicts among the countries of the Middle East because of their national interests or what could be perceived as a threat to their national security. It is dominated by fears and precautionary scenarios, and this mindset almost completely controls its media discourse.

So, the mains question is:

Is the democracy in such a troublesome situation to the extent that it might be implemented in a successful way? 

Political science studies believe  that most countries suffer from oligarchic regimes or minority ruling, where they are governed by a small group of elites who organizes the structure of society in a way that suits their personal interests at the expense of the majority of the population. Studies show a significant correlation between poverty and the dominance of these minorities  in the political power and wealth sector. There is also a broad correlation between prosperity, wealth, people’s freedom, and the distribution of sources of power and wealth. Shifting from an oligarchy to another regime isn’t an easy change and doesn’t have any guarantees. A successful shift depends on historical awareness and the knowledge of the people regarding the rules of this game. To draw the picture clearly, we could say that social systems are divided into two groups: 

1. Open access orders

These systems at the political level are characterized by the rule of non-discriminatory regulations on the accession of any citizen into any political party. In addition, the civil government has control over all organizations that use violence. On the economic level, it is characterized by the sovereignty of the economic institutions in private sectors that don’t rely on governments, regulations that allow citizens to establish an economic institution and the obtainment of legal support from the government without discrimination. 

2.  Limited access orders

In contrast, there are the “limited access orders”, which can be described as a social system based on the dominance of elites represented by political, religious and educational leaders that are the main sources of power and wealth in society through the implementation of rents. Based on this, North and his colleagues divide restricted systems into three types:

2.1 Fragile limited access orders In which there is no clear distinction between economic institutions and political institutions, or a clear distinction between a civilian and a soldier; institutional structures in these systems are simple and fragile and are often formally associated with the dominant coalition. It is difficult to prevent violence.

2.2  Basic limited access orders (natural) In which all public or “private” economic institutions are linked to a dominant alliance, or sometimes linked to multinational corporations; most political institutions are controlled by the state (often under the control of a single party or a dictatorship); opposing parties are always threatened; the government is embodied by a set of stable institutions (unlike fragile restrictive regimes); the use of violence is found in governmental organizations (eg police, armed forces, and intelligence).

2.3 Mature limited access of orders At the political level, there are many political institutions, that depend on the recognition and declaration of the central authority. The government controls most of the organizations that use violence. The economic level is characterized by the presence of many private companies, and some multinational companies. However, having access is very limited and needs contacts in politics.

Conditions to shift to open systems: Limited access orders are non-existent, so it is possible to see a certain type of progress from a fragile LOA to a basic LOA, or progress from a LOA to a regulative restrictive system.However, it is only possible to move from the mature LOA system to the open access orders, but this requires three basic conditions:

  • Increasing the scope of relationships in which rule of law is effectively maintained.
  • Increasing the reliability across time with which the state provides support for the organizations and enforces agreements among them.
  • Bringing more of the organizations with violence capacity into relationships that successfully minimize actual violence.

How to apply it in the zone (Middle East) 

The answer to our main question would be: that the result depends on how a society performs and how it deals with the situation, as well as the institutional structure of that society, the elites’ understanding and the forces of change in it, and the extent to which they understand the nature of the oligarchy or the existing coalition of it.According to this vision, the maturity of civil society in the countries of the Middle East and its stability, can determine the political ruling and political oligarchy within the framework of the laws in a bigger way.  We shouldn’t forget what we’ve mentioned before, that the form by itself won’t have a real change in the States’ situation.

True change will only come with the will of people.

Thus the fate of democracy will have three levels:

 1)    To impose consensus and balance between the different powers of superiority in the dominant coalition within the ruling oligarchy in restrictive regimes to prevent the use of violence and stable security.

2)    The compatibility of the different social forces to ensure the great interest in the personal level and the public benefit through coordination of collective cooperation across the organization in the institutions of the civil society, economy and politics.

3)    The compatibility between the social elites and the intellectuals at the regional level to define a horizon for co-existence through regional solutions and programs to resolve the conflict and dialogue that could provide a substitute for peoples from the image of hatred and division promoted by the regimes in order to market their projects.

Ultimately, from this perspective, we must say that the  importance of human rights as a common framework for reducing violence at all levels-takes into account the government, the citizens and the politicians-, and the promotion of the status of people in the countries of the region, which is one of the richest areas of the world in terms of youth human potential, which aspires to a bright future and sustainable development that takes justice and independence in consideration and peace worthy of these peoples and homelands.