There will be many people who over the coming days will express ideas and talking points which will agree with Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who was quoted saying, “The events in Egypt show that there is no quick and peaceful transition from authoritarian regimes to democratic politics.” He went on to describe the current events in Egypt pointing out that democracy is not a “one size fits all” system and nearly all the “democratic revolutions” in the Arab World have produced less than admirable results. He further pointed out that there was a need for much advance work to be performed in order to transform the Arab World into a place where democratic governance could flourish. I disagree with this assessment simply because what we are witnessing is democracy in its most raw form. What we are not seeing is a representative republic yet forming in the Arab World. The error Mr. Pushkov has made is to confuse democracy with representative governance. Democracy in its purist form is mob rule which we are witnessing in Egypt. Pure democracy is a messy and unforgiving form and cannot be implemented in and of itself to govern a nation, it must be tempered with restraints and mechanisms which blunt its more fickle nature and have avenues for redress and protection for minorities. As the old adage goes, Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what they want for dinner. That vote never turns out well for the sheep.
Egypt is currently going through the early stages of developing their democracy based representative system of governance. Just because the very first time they attempted to hold fair and open democratic elections produced a government and Constitution that failed does not mean that democratic based rule is impossibility for the people of Egypt. Many people point to the United States as the glorious precedent which everybody should attempt to match in their transition from Monarchial governance under King George of England to the Constitutional Democratic Republic that exists today. It was not that simple and the United States did not go directly from Monarchy to Democratic Republic. There was a failed state in between before the Constitution was written and enacted where the government of the United States was guided by the Articles of Confederation which were found inoperable leading to the writing of the Constitution. So, if even the United States with its all so intellectual Founding Fathers had to take two goes at forming their democratic republic how can we expect Egypt to get it perfect on their first trial? We should recall the French Revolution and the First Republic. The French Revolution worked so fantastically well at bringing into power a representative government that it led directly to Napoleon declaring himself Emperor. The French have probably worked the hardest at perfecting their Republic as they are currently in what they refer to as the Fifth French Republic and there are serious discussions about the necessity for another restart bringing on the Sixth French Republic. Egypt is only entering their second attempt and history will very likely list the year under President Morsi as a trial run which will not count as overly significant beyond its ability to point out some glaring shortcomings.
What people tend to forget is that between the times the Czars ruled over Russia and before the onset of Communism and the Soviet Union, Russia had a short lived representative government which lasted from February of 1917 all the way until November of 1917 with the most remembered leader of the Russian Provisional Government being Alexander Kerensky. So, even the Russians did not slide directly from the Czars into the arms of the Communists, they too had a shot at democratic republican governance. Perhaps it is this short history of democratic governmental failure in Russia that influenced Alexei Pushkov into suggesting that Egypt would not be much more successful than Russia had in such endeavors. Germany too had a democratic republic briefly between the Kaiser and Nazism which was named the Weimar Republic. The Weimar Republic was a parliamentary system which ruled Germany starting in November 1918. The downfall was caused by monetary policies which were partly doomed to fail due to reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I and other difficulties causing hyperinflation making the German currency next to worthless. This made the people susceptible to any strong charismatic leader who offered some light at the end of their dark tunnel and this arrived in the form of Adolph Hitler and that brought the end of their democratic experiment. Throughout history democracies have had limited shelf-life usually cracking under their own policies within four-hundred-years. This was true for the Greeks who founded the earliest democracies, then the Romans and nobody has even come close to challenging the four-hundred-year barrier since Rome. The United States has just celebrated their two-hundred-thirty-seventh year of democratic republic governance and even then it took two attempts to get something that has thus far lasted. So, perhaps everybody should calm down and have a deep drink of water. Yes, the democratization of the Arab World has appeared to have gotten off to a bit of a rough start. Nobody before them performed anywhere near perfectly first time out establishing a workable democratic republic. The secret to establishing a truly representative democratic republic is to remember that the central government will only go in one direction after it is established, that is to grow. So start with an undersized central government and allow it to grow its power only as required for as long as possible and whatever happens, do not give up after all the French have kept at it even after a short respite under an emperor; so if the French have not surrendered then you should not either. What Friedrich Nietzsche said about people also appears to work if slightly modified for representative governance. He stated, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” For attempting governments one might say, “That which does not destroy the country can be salvaged and modified.” Patience and perseverance are key.
Beyond the Cusp