"The problem with those who advocate democracy in the middle east have to face is that the people will vote for authoritarian Islamicist governments given the chance."... and each time I see it, I promise myself that I'll write a long post pointing out the holes in that argument: That it fundamentally misrepresents what democracy means - and reduces it to the simple process of voting. Democracy is about a robust civil society, entrenched liberties and other important factors as much as it is about voting. A state is not a democracy if a vote results in the election of an authoritarian regime. If it is possible to win an election and then abolish - say - freedom of conscience / subsequent elections / press freedom etc, then the election has not taken place in a democratic state.
But I'm in a hurry today, so I'll confine myself to a few corrections to his latest post about Tony Blair's use of the F word in relation to Islamicist regimes. Dave says:
"If one were to rank the world’s undemocratic governments on a scale of one to ten, Iran would surely exceed the median. There’s no question that Ahmadinejad & Co merit a rating of something like six or seven."Bollocks. A gander at The Economist Intelligence Unit's Index of Democracy (pdf) has Iran very firmly in the lower quartile, describing it as an 'authoritarian regime'. He goes on:
"....there is some political space in Iran. Constricted and limited political space, but political space nevertheless."Well, OK. I suppose this is true - but in 169 countries ranked by Reporters Without Borders in their 'press freedom index' (linked to here yesterday), Iran runs in as a creditable 166th. That means that there is a greater political space there than in, say, North Korea - but less that Burma. Not quite Dave's description, I think we can agree?
As it happens though, I'm broadly in agreement with Dave's view about over-use of the F word. But I think that his post contains concrete proof that he is underestimating the perniciousness of the Iranian government - and the threat that it poses. And this isn't a error that is confined to Dave's blog either. Very far from it. Sometimes - under those circumstances, you can understand it when people indulge in a bit of reductio ad Hitlerium to make a point in a public space that is so distorted in other directions.