Saturday, August 06, 2005

Democracy can wait

It's taking Iraq by storm, but the inexorable wave of democracy sweeping the Middle East has yet to reach the UAE:

"We live in the best democracy ever," says Samir Marzouqi, 19, who lives in a country where citizens never vote.

As a national of the United Arab Emirates, he lives in what is now the only country in the Gulf which has no elected bodies. Political parties are banned.

But he points out that the sheikhs who rule the UAE attend regular open meetings where citizens can air concerns.

And, as many of his peers stress, with free health care and education, a booming economy and political stability, few want to complain anyway.
"Everybody is happy, everything is going smoothly, and I don't think we should jeopardise that to be a democratic country," says UAE national Sharifa Maawali, 27.

Of course, when the gravy train ends the sheikhs could find themselves in trouble. But it's interesting to note what a little political moderation and prosperity can do to sap democratic aspirations.