Effect of Democratization in Improving Living Standards

Democracy cannot exist without social justice, whereby citizens feel that all their social and economic rights are protected. The political dilemma in the Arab world, resulting from the absence of political freedoms, has left very clear negative effects on society. This dilemma has contributed significantly to the erosion of the economic infrastructure of the Arab world, or has at least resulted in a clear imbalance in the distribution of wealth and services. The absence of political freedoms has also led to a decline in the standard of living; increased poverty and unemployment rates; and has diminished productivity and widened the gap between the various social classes.

It could be argued that political oppression leads to social imbalance, the deterioration of the economy and the decay of the social fabric. Furthermore, political oppression distorts the meaning of good citizenship and its requirements as well as having a devastating effect on the concept of national identity. The latter does not seem able to withstand the consequences of political oppression or repair its damages.

The important question here is whether democratization is the solution to these problems?

In theory yes, but only if this transition is serious and clear. It is possible to measure the success of the implementation of democratic mechanisms in the extent to which these changes reflect positively on the lives of ordinary people. These ordinary citizens do not only seek political freedoms, but more importantly, the vast majority also aims to improve their standard of living. Democratization will become meaningless if unemployment and corruption continue and if the standard of public services does not improve. This reveals a serious problem underlying the political process itself and also indicates an absence of the principles of transparency and accountability, a weakness in the performance of the elected Legislative Authority and the lack of a political ‘will’ to start a clean political life, particularly by the Executive Authority.

When factional, sectarian and tribal conflicts continue, riots, incidents of violence and human rights violations also increase, which suggests that the culture of democracy and human rights is still not yet deeply embedded in the Bahraini public and official conscience. It also points to the fact that the Judiciary is weak and is unable to adequately perform its role. Furthermore, it means that civil society institutions have also failed in their attempt to make any changes or provide citizens with appropriate mechanisms in order to confront the challenges of daily life.

Bahrain is undergoing a transitional period towards achieving democracy and the signs of this are clear and need not be mentioned. To what extent however, has this transition affected the culture, values and the life of the citizens? To what extent have we come closer to achieving the values of social justice? And to what extent has democracy encouraged the Government to improve the performance of public services? And has the process of democratization provided us with new tools or weapons with which to confront poverty, unemployment, bribery and other symptoms of corruption?

We are convinced that improvements in public services and in combating unemployment and corruption have actually taken place. A change in Bahraini society’s culture towards respecting different opinions which promotes human rights culture has also been noticed, and even at the legislative and legal levels a positive change has been detected, but is this enough? If the democratic transition has not changed our situation, culture and performance for the better, this means that there is a problem. And when democratization achieves successes at some levels, how can these be measured? And how can radical changes be achieved in the bureaucratic, judicial and legislative systems in order to promote the values of democracy and move us closer to it.