The USAID observer was told not to worry by an Iraqi council member, who explained that the shouting was only theatrics and that it would not disrupt the process. While seemingly accepting that this was ‘the Iraqi way’, the authors express their satisfaction that ‘the shouting soon gave way to constructive debate; the council agreed on some issues and deferred others before it adjourned peacefully’ (USAID 2004: 12).

For instance, in recent years there has been growing selective remembrance (that is, forgetting about the political repressions and lack of freedoms) and intensifying nostalgia for the ‘stability’ of the Soviet past and a questioning of the benefits of democracy, which is linked in the minds of many post-Soviet citizens with the introduction of the shock therapies that led to poverty, gross inequality, social exclusion, gangster capitalism and the rise of the oligarchs (see box 4.2). Democracy promotion in Eastern Europe was also affected by the close association between democracy and market reform programmes. Because the rapidly implemented market reforms and shock therapies of the early 1990s led to vast inequality, poverty and social exclusion, people soon became disillusioned, not only with the market reforms but also with the associated programme of democracy building.

From African dictators in the 1970s to Asian government officials in the 1990s there have been two sets of arguments: first, democracy is a luxury that can and should only come after a certain stage of economic development and stability has been achieved; and second, democracy is a Western individualistic value that is not compatible with more ‘traditional’ or kin-based societies. These arguments held great sway in the 1990s until the financial crisis in Asia undermined the ‘Asian values’ position and silenced most of its supporters (Thompson 2001: 154).