29. Sept. 2013

Assembly CoE

The traps of majoritarianism

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – On behalf of the Socialist Group, I thank Mr Harutyunyan for his report and especially for focusing on the question of what to do when democracy turns sour and there is a tyranny of the majority. In that regard, we can link the progress we observe in the Arab revolution with what has been happening in some central European states. In the discussion with the Secretary-General in Dubrovnik we coined the term majoritarianism, in the juridical sense, to focus on that. In many central European countries the majority does not accept its own limits. They have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives everybody, including the minority, powers that limit the power of the majority. That lack of respect for the minority has resulted in an undermining of the political situation in many countries, and we must do all we can to help overcome that and continue the learning process.

Looking south to the Arab revolution countries, that idea was stressed by the intervention of the director of the Arabic Institute in Paris in the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. He explained that in Egypt the former Government and the new regime have made the same mistake: as the majority, they have not been politically inclusive. Those who represent the majority have to govern together with those who lost the elections, not exclusively for those who voted for them as the winners. This is another trap of majoritarianism. The director of the Arabic Institute says the anti-Islamists who are excluding the Islamists now are making the same mistake as the previous Islamist Government under Morsi, which excluded all those who did not believe in Islam and which saw itself as exclusively for the Islamic community.

Tunisia learned from that experience and did not make the same mistake. There is a trans-national communication and learning process, therefore, as we had in 1848 when we had a similar revolution. We drew that comparison two and a half years ago when the Arab revolution began. It allows us to understand these revolutions as processes in which many backward steps will be taken. It is extremely interesting that Tunisia tried to learn from what went wrong in Egypt.

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