Is democracy a universal value? That question has puzzled me more and more lately. History surely demonstrates nothing of the kind: until recently, the vast majority of the human race lived under some sort of despotism. The abuse of power by the strong and the rich is without question a universal trait of our species. But for that very reason, we haven’t had much chance, in history, to learn what the majority craves.
No land has had less truck with democracy than Afghanistan. Its history would make an optimist despair: courage, stoicism, and indeed virtue are plentiful, yet have been invariably in the service of violence. So a test of particular significance. both to the universality of democracy and to Afghanistan, revolves around the results of the parliamentary elections there – elections which, unlike those coming up in Egypt, capped rather than initiated a great political reversal. Let me conclude with this description of one of the parliamentary winners, which I find truly fascinating:
Women’s rights activist Malalai Joya was one of the first winners named.
She rose to prominence for denouncing warlords at a constitutional forum two years ago.
Ms Joya will take her place in the 249-seat National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, following initial results in the western provinces of Nimroz and Farah.