Tuesday 30 December 2003

Ignoring the voice of democracy

The Death of Democracy
"The American people have spoken," said Bill Clinton shortly after election day. "It's too bad it's going to take a little while to determine what it was they had to say."
Many more people are speaking and it is too bad that no one is listening to what they also have to say.
In America, Mr George W. Bush won the presidency through the Electoral College and not by the popular vote.
However, the electoral process allows for the simple One Man, One Vote principle to be converted into Electoral College block votes of binding on the state representatives with the view of allowing some even representation of across the country.
Only, twice in the history of American democracy has the popular vote not elected a president.
After Mr Bush won the election, it is commendable that he said he would be a uniter, but interesting that in all dealings he has come across more as a divider.
One is no prognosticator, but one remembers telling friends that he would lead us to war; it took 10 months to do that.
The Venezuelans elected a socialist leaning Hugo Chavez, he was overthrown in a coup which supposedly received tacit American support.
Or at least they did not speak out against it. Just as they have condoned without sanction the regime of General Musharraf of Pakistan. Mr Chavez got reinstated by his people.
The elite then orchestrated a recall process which literally brought the country to its knees but that process was voided, giving Mr Chavez another cat life as president.
California lived out both the American and Hollywood dream, when an Austrian-born immigrant actor married to a scion of American royalty - the Kennedys - became the governor.
Amazingly, the erstwhile governor Grey (in every sense of the word) Davis was turfed out only having been re-elected a year earlier. The recall process was bankrolled by the Republican machinery, though Mr Schwarzenegger would have won anyway as an independent or with any of the parties.
The uncomfortable setup does not allow for him to chose his running-mate, Mr Davis' deputy Cruz Bustamante however, ran for governor whilst retaining the option to be deputy governor.
When the Islamist AK Party took the majority in Turkey, many observers intoned that they be prevented from taking the reins of government.
In fact, the present Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was first disqualified from election because of a historical involvement with fundamentalist Islam. Eventually, that was overturned and he won election and took the mantle of government.
This though illustrates a questionable stance of outsiders ignoring the sovereignty of an electoral process that makes them uncomfortable or might not be amenable to them for whatever reasons.
Elections 2003
In Georgia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, there have been questionable electoral sharp practices. The people resolved the Georgian crises by mass mobilisation and demonstrations.
Nigeria lives with those questions but thrives because the challenge to the incumbent is not credible enough to create unrest. Zimbabwe however wallows under the tyranny of a democratic despot called Robert Mugabe.
As the debate hotted up regarding going to war with Iraq issues of clear democratic significance came to the fore.
When the United States realised they could not cajole and coerce the Security Council of the United Nations into supporting their stance, they proffered that the UN was sinking into irrelevance. They then took unilateral action without UN support with their "Coalition of the willing".
Old Europe
Mr Donald Rumsfeld had ample opportunity to polarise the European divisions on the issue, by calling the unwilling Old Europe. It so happens, the Old Europe countries were governments that heeded to the voice of dissent from their people.
A majority of those populations were against the war. In literally all the cases, none of the coalition of the willing had a majority of their populace in support of that preemptive war.
In fact, we now know that parliaments an congresses were persuaded with information that was suspect, uncorroborated and garnered from interest groups who had suffered loss at the hands of the despotic Iraqi regime.
Surely, Iraq should have seen change, however, we note that stark difference between George Bush I and George Bush II.
The former had all the support through persuasion to pursue the war, the latter used the threat of irrelevance to coerce little-stans into supporting his war.
Now the Serbians have given a nationalist party the majority vote, that is democracy. However, countries of the European Union and other interfering parties are urging the 3 splintered parties to gang up into a coalition to deny the nationalist party the right to govern. That is not democratic at all.
It smirks of hypocrisy to deny the Serbians the right to see their electoral wishes realised because it does not gel with so-called European values. If the Serbians want a representative nationalist government, that should be what they get.
When the Austrians chose to coalise with the Freedom Party, that exemplified the power of their democracy. To be sanctioned for voting contrary to expectations is unfortunate to say the least and patronising in every respect.
It is no coincidence that where governments have ignored the majority or democratic wish of their citizenry, they have been reaping the high cost of human life lost in pursuit of a poorly executed war and post-war effort.
Whilst the majority of Iraqis might elate at the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the occupying forces do not have the full support of the majority who are more beholding to their clerical leaders.
The insurgencies stem from remnants of he old regime and opposers of occupation, especially those who have suffered loss after the fall of Saddam.
One's view is that, a government still in need of democratic legitimacy cannot truly advocate democracy elsewhere.
Mr George W. Bush would only achieve that legitimacy after getting re-elected in 2004. Meanwhile, we just have to live with an interloper in the White House, another casualty of the democratic process.

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