The lessons of Sudan and Algeria: Democracy has to be forced like a hyacinth bulb


I think what’s clear from the continuing protests in Sudan and Algeria is that ordinary people do not believe in springtime or a budding democracy. They know that democracy has to be forced to bloom – a bit like a hyacinth bulb meant to be in full flower at Christmas. The bulb has to be positioned (root end down) on a bright windowsill in a bulb glass with water just below the cup where the bulb will rest. The bulb will reach for the water. The water has to be changed and topped up regularly and the bulb has to be turned everyday so it grows strongly upright.

So too with democracy. It doesn’t just come up on its own, flower and look after itself. It must be forced and managed and supervised.

Sudan and Algeria’s continuing protests show that the people don’t believe in blithe labels such as “Arab Spring” or “Arab Spring II”.

It’s obvious that the protesters in Sudan and Algeria are deeply aware of the fragility of their present gains. Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has had to bow out and Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been placed under house arrest by the military. But the system remains the same. Demcracy won’t just bloom miraculously and certainly not for long – remember Egypt? It needs forcing.