By Ramesh Mathew
Speakers at the seventh Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade asserted yesterday that the democratic system of government would ensure eventual prosperity for every single democracy.
They were speaking at the opening session on ‘Democracy and reforms in the world’, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Initiating the discussions, moderated by media personality David Frost, Leader of Britain’s House of Commons Jack Straw said democracy is a precondition for long-term peace and prosperity everwhere. “Where there is democracy, chances for a conflict are less,” argued the Labour parliamentarian.
Citing the case of Northern Ireland, where efforts are on to form a power-sharing government, he said this was “possible only because of the belief of all warring parties in Northern Ireland in democratic principles.”
Observing that the Middle East was in the vanguard of a major change, Straw expressed confidence that democracy would sweep through the region in the not too distant future.
While agreeing with most of Straw’s arguments, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa criticised the “increasing tendency among some strong powers to interfere in the internal affairs of weaker countries in the name of democracy.”
The former Egyptian foreign minister said that democracy was not totally unknown to the Middle East. Egypt, he said, had established a parliament in 1920. “It was not brought from abroad. It was born in Egypt itself.” Moussa said the people of Egypt had seen elections for long and they understood the essence of democracy.
“However, it is a pity that some major democracies are unwilling to accept the verdict of elections held under a democratic system in an Arab country recently, when they found that the results there had gone against their wishes,” he said.
Drawing loud applause, Moussa asked Straw to explain why democratic regimes like the US and Britain were indulging in a “double game” in Iraq.
Another speaker at the session, deposed Thai prime minister Thakshin Shinawatra, stressed that democracy was the best form of governance to ensure the rule of law. “It would also pave the way for social development of a society,” he said.
Shinawatra observed that military and dictatorial regimes had not succeeded in meeting the people’s expectations.
For the successful functioning of a democracy, a free and fearless media was a necessity. “Only under a set-up where there is a free press could a democratic experiment succeed,” Shinawatra said.
A market economy could flourish only under a democratically elected government, he added.
Former Lebanese prime minister Saleem al-Hoss and Marc Harb, a Canadian senator of Lebanese origin, also spoke.