The new wave of color revolutions has broken through Tunisia and swept into Egypt this year. Western-style democracy appears to be spreading, yet the affected countries are not comparable with Western society – these new revolutions are more controversial than those that happened in East Europe after the Cold War.
The revolutions were received with mixed reactions in the West. The international community is no longer clamoring for emerging countries to become democracies as it was shortly after the Cold War. On the one hand, they are happy that more are embracing democracy. On the other, real concerns exist about the potential rise of Islamic fundamentalism in case of a power vacuum in the Middle East.
In a sense, democracy means to convey all grass-roots sentiment to the government level, but many existing governments do not do this. The more extreme elements exist in a society, the harder it is for a government to maintain a reasonable line. The Middle East is the region where beliefs and viewpoints clash most with the Western world view. Hence, Western countries support non-democratic governments who play into their hands.
Most Western democracies matured over a long period. Japan and South Korea, though implanted democracies, have to pay the price of accepting foreign armies on their territory. Some other countries have had an even tougher time in adopting a democratic system.
In general, democracy has a strong appeal because of the successful models in the West. But whether the system is applicable in other countries is in question, as more and more unsuccessful examples arise.
In the West, democracy is not only a political system, but a way of life. Yet some emerging democracies in Asia and Africa are taking hit after hit from street-level clamor.
Democracy is still far away for Tunisia and Egypt. The success of a democracy takes concrete foundations in economy, education and social issues.
As a general concept, democracy has been accepted by most people. But when it comes to political systems, the Western model is only one of a few options. It takes time and effort to apply democracy to different countries, and to do so without the turmoil of revolution.