Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's promise to step aside after the fall elections, following 30 years in power, stoked hopes of democratic reform in one of the most populous countries in North Africa and the Middle East. But skeptics warn that democracy could be ugly in Egypt, which lacks democratic civic institutions and the Western tradition of tolerance for minority rights. Does this mean that free elections could be dangerous for Egypt, and the Middle East? (Watch an ABC discussion about Egypt and democracy)
Absolutely. Majority rule will backfire in Egypt: "The dream of a democratic Egypt is sure to produce a nightmare" and a resounding defeat for human rights, says Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist opposition group that will inevitably play a significant role in any freely elected government, is likely trample the rights of minorities, as they have in Gaza and in Iran, and would likely dismantle Egypt's peace with Israel.
"A democratic Egypt or a state of hate?"
Egypt has the same right to democracy as we do: The transition to democracy might well be messy in Egypt, says the Edmonton Journal in an editorial, but that's no reason to prop up Mubarak's autocratic regime instead of giving power to the people. We in the West are "sometimes patronizingly skeptical about the democratic potential of folks who live under authoritarian systems." Egyptians will never learn to respect the "victor's right to rule" and the "loser's right to provide opposition" until they have the chance.
"Egyptians seize democracy"
The U.S. can mitigate the risks ahead: Yes, there's still potential for "chaos" in Egypt, says Michael Rubin in National Review. But President Obama should start by pressuring Mubarak to hand over power to a transitional government right away. Then the challenges will be preventing the Muslim Brotherhood from inflaming "the Egyptian tinderbox" in an effort to grab power and ensuring that only groups that renounce violence and accept the Egyptian constitution can participate in elections.
"Mubarak won't run again? Not good enough"