Beijing has criticised the United States for inviting Taiwan and not China to a virtual “Summit for Democracy” next month. So who is on the guest list for the summit, being hosted by President Joe Biden?In Joe Biden’s presidential election campaign he promised to put the battle against “autocratic governments” at the heart of his foreign policy but the guest list for his upcoming “democracy summit” has left many people bemused.The US Department of State, which is hosting the virtual summit between 9 and 10 December, has invited 110 countries.China and Russia are – perhaps not surprisingly considering US foreign policy – omitted from the list and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Washington of “trying to privatise the term ‘democracy’.”
But there are some much more startling omissions and some strange inclusions.
India, which has around a billion voters, “the world’s biggest democracy” and has been invited, along with arch-enemy Pakistan but there is no invitation for Bangladesh, which has a functioning democracy and is due to hold elections next year.
Sheikh Hasina – the daughter of Bangladesh’s founding father – has been prime minister since 2009 but she has not been invited to the summit, possibly because of Bangladesh’s growing relationship with China.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina jointly inaugurate a major road named after Bangabandhu Mujibur Rehman during an agreement signing ceremony after a meeting in New Delhi on April 8, 2017Turkey, which is a member of NATO and was a US ally throughout the Cold War and as recently as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has also been snubbed.Biden has in the past called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan an “autocrat” but nobody can argue with his democratic success – his AKP party has won every election since 2003 and Mr Erdogan won a resounding victory in the 2018 presidential election.
Also omitted from the guest list is Egypt, which elected Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as President in 2014 and again in 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome, Saturday 31 October, 2021.In 2019 Egyptians voted overwhelmingly in favour of constitutional changes which would allow President Sisi to stay in power until 2030.Israel and Iraq are the only Middle Eastern countries invited to President Biden’s little get-together.
Singapore is another democracy which has been left off the guest list but the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger have both been invited, as have Kenya and Nigeria.There is also no place for Ethiopia, whose prime minister Abiy Ahmed won another five-year term in July’s election despite being mired in a conflict in the Tigray region.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban talks to journalists as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.Poland has also been invited but Biden has snubbed Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is apparently not liberal enough.There are also invites for several former Soviet states – Estonia, Armenia and Georgia – but not others like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.On the State Department website the summit will have three key themes – “defending against authoritarianism”, “addressing and fighting corruption” and “promoting respect for human rights” but there is no explanation for why some countries have been invited and others snubbed.