Egypt – Opposites do not attract

The problem of telling everyone you’re going for democracy is that there’s too often one element missing: Opposition. Listening to the voices left in the square, we hear the anxieties of peoples who demand uncompromising change. These are the people whose miserable times past hardly mattered to big powers (America and Britain included) as long as the regional status quo ante agreed with foreign policy in Washington, London and of course, Israel. So now, every one (almost every one) calls for democracy. But who will define Egyptian democracy for, say, the coming decade? A free judiciary and universal suffrage is a splendid start. However, once in power, then what? Those in the square are calling for revolution. The history of modern revolution – from France onwards – suggests traumatic times ahead. Realistically, Western-style democracy (the only one ever championed) has not existed in Egypt. The consequence of all revolution that changes regime is the single phenomenon that brings about its downfall. The people of the square are in Opposition.

When, in 1649, the Puritans beheaded their monarch, any political Opposition was outlawed. The French Revolutionaries overturned the system and rejoiced in regicide and of course, rid themselves of any Opposition. In more recent times, the Iranians sent their shah scurrying to exile and, of course, banned any effective Opposition.  Robert Gabriel Mugabe was democratically elected and for fifteen years lived comfortably in that style; as soon as he was threatened, he crushed Opposition.

The lessons, and warnings, are obvious. If any of the great Western leaders believe that democracy in Egypt will tolerate Opposition then they are blind to their histories and over-indulgent of their platitudes.  Revolution and Opposition part company once the palace gates are breached.

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