Arguments about the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the parliamentary and presidential elections in Egypt have occupied a large portion of our discussions. This historical event is not only important for Egypt but for the entire region.
The victory reveals the fragility of the cultural understanding in the Arab region of the concept of democracy. Some Arabs were horrified by the results of the parliamentary and presidential elections in Egypt and in Tunisia before that. These results constituted an examination that clearly showed us the big difference between theory and reality for Arab intellectuals.
Democracy is not a political system with guaranteed results. For this very reason some of us will be shocked by its results, which may bring to power extremist religious groups.
Some found the victory of Muhammad Mursi surprising, even though the overwhelming victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the parliamentary elections was a sufficient indication that their presidential candidate would win. Some even denied Mursi's victory, though in democracy the candidate who obtained the majority of the votes will win. It is therefore a matter of mathematics not a cultural question. To whoever denies the victory of Mursi, I say: this is democracy.
These people want democracy but cannot digest its results and brand them as "bad" if they are not in their favor. You want democracy, but not Mursi or the Muslim Brotherhood? What is democracy then? Is it not the people's choice? The people may choose an illiterate person or an extremist or a separatist. They may choose a movie actor like Ronald Reagan in the US or an intellectual and literate man like Havel in the Czech Republic or a criminal like Hitler in Germany.
The results of the elections in Egypt and Tunisia disappointed many Arab intellectuals. The most disappointed of those had built an imaginary ideal of the choice of the Egyptian voter. They also had misconceptions about the next Egyptian president and the next Tunisian Prime Minister. When the results of the elections were announced, they started to attack the Muslim Brotherhood that won the Egyptian elections and the members of Ennahda Party who won in Tunisia. The problem of these people is not the democratic system but its products: Mursi in Egypt and Hamadi Jebali in Tunisia. Some intellectuals condemned those who accepted the results and said they were either Muslim Brothers themselves or hypocrites.
Regardless of our negative opinion about the Muslim Brotherhood as a political ideology, a movement or individuals should not deprive them of their right to win when they run for elections. We should respect the rules and regulations, particularly since more than 50 percent of the constituency voted for them.
The choice of the voters may not always be suitable. Saying this may come across as arrogant, but it is the reality of democracy. Most of the representatives of people in parliaments are not always highly qualified or experienced. They are mostly common people who know how to win the votes of the laymen. The Tunesians did not choose Jebali because he was an engineer in solar energy from a Parisian university. The Egyptians did not choose Mursi because he holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California. They picked him because they believed he was the man who would solve their problems. They may or may not be right in their choice. We may discover later that Mursi is the greatest leader Egypt ever had since the time of Tutankhamun. He may also turn out to be worse than Mubarak.
People will be committing a grave mistake when they look for an ideal president. The reality is simpler than that. He is the choice of the majority of the people and this is democracy.
Sometimes in democracy, the choice of the people may be horrifying. When the people in Austria elected an extreme racist, Jorg Haider, and most countries of the world boycotted him. Haider chaired a coalition government for two years before his party lost the next elections.
The difference between the deeply rooted democracy in the West and the newly born democracy in the Arab world is that in the first one, extremists rarely come to rule the nation. The ascent to power of Hitler in Germany was a catastrophic lesson to democracy. Democracy in the Arab world resembles the old European democracy where religious fanatics, tribal leaders or regionalists may climb to power. The Arab democracy is a reflection of the local culture. It is still in an embryonic phase. It is not guarded by constitutions or independent and strong judicial institutions.
Those who make the choice in democracy are the voters who queue in front of the ballot boxes. They have modest qualifications and some of them did not even complete a secondary school education.
I know that the results of the elections in Egypt and Tunisia have shocked a large chunk of the Arab intellectuals. This is the first time people in the two countries had a taste of real democracy after decades of forged ones. All political systems look for legitimacy to justify their existence. This legitimacy comes from a social contract between the people and the state during which power will be rotated with a system acceptable to all people.
Will the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and members of the Ennhada party in Tunisia be real democrats and give the presidency to those who will be chosen by the people after four years? The matter is left to them to decide.