Is democracy all about numbers? Is it only about what the majority says? I’m not going bluntly say yes or no, I’ll take the easy way out and say it depends. Please, allow me to explain.
Everyone interested in Middle Eastern affairs for the past couple of years have been deeply fooled, or fooling himself, in a numbers game. They say, are there problems over there? The solution: Easy, just hand over the power to the majority and that should do it. Or, those who consider themselves a little more intellectual would say: Easy, there should be power sharing and that should do it. And then come those who consider themselves analysts would say: The current ruling part should give away a bit more of their power and that should do it!
To me, this is all nonsense if it lacks the fundamentals that societies need for development. When country level indicators such as growth, income inequality, unemployment, fiscal imbalances, and inflation are all over the map, then an oversimplified prescription of manual power shift would have no influence whatsoever on the individual’s well-being. So when protesters for example go out on streets to demand a better life, and outsiders relate this to the control of power by government, I find myself hung between earth and sky. Here’s why.
Whenever there is a problem, the solution has to be unique in order to find the best possible solution. What’s being done for now is that the solution is no longer unique to various types of problems around the Middle East. Yes, democracy, as a solution, is important, but democracy is not simply majority rule, it is much more than that. The way I see it, even America today need to democratize in order to solve its own financial problems. In political science, democracy is all about efficient and functional institutions that constrain leaders to operate in the best manner they can by generating the most optimal decisions.
In America today, decisions on where to steer the economy are not optimal, they fall short in finding the best unique solutions to the problems they face. The reason is simply because of power sharing. Neither the white house, nor congress are able to make the decision they believe is best for the economy, because they have to feed into it the policies that would make other important sides happy. Therefore, instead of picking and disposing the can in the trash where it belongs, they continue kicking it further down the road, where more cans await. Where are the democratic institutions that guarantees optimal decisions?
So back to the Middle East, where our economies combined account for only 5% or less of the world economy, can we afford not making perfect economic decisions simply to satisfy every stakeholder in the non-ending power struggle?
Even though we cannot afford any bad decisions while trying to catch up with the developed world, we still need a change that would directly target the indicators I mentioned above, along with many other significant ones as well. If power sharing is an important economic solution, then it should be on the table. However, if power sharing is simply for the sake of power sharing, then we’re just shooting ourselves on the foot, just like what Egypt is doing, shooting itself on the foot. The priority as I see it is to establish democratic institutions that would tackle one issue at a time.
Democratic institutions are institutions established with a vision and a strategic mission to reach their goals. They are regulators to what falls within their umbrellas and are accountable to what they genuinely enforce. They work to make the future as most certain as possible with complete transparency that will entail other higher level and accountable institutions to monitor them inside out.
So to conclude, for the sake of development, it’s all-right to fight with numbers, but not any numbers, quality numbers.