Democracy

Democracy is a term that is often bandied around, most commonly by the likes of George Bush when he’s talking about Iraq and the Middle East. Never mind the irony that he’s the President of one of the least democratic “democracies” in the world, with allegations of election fixing, jerrymandering, bribery, as well as a generally undemocratic electoral system (even moreso than ours in the UK, and that’s saying something), he’s a disgrace to the very concept of democracy!

There are 2 things happening in the world at the moment that bring me to the theme of democracy. The happenings in Zimbabwe are one of the biggest man-made crises happening in the world at the moment (by no means the greatest but it’s up there). Robert Mugabe is no less than a dictator. Democracy in that country is a sham. I think it’s quite ironic how the Zimbabwean system has been a response to apartheid (remember that Mugabe and Zanu PF gave a lot of support to the the ANC in its armed struggle against the National Party). You would think that a response to a racist undemocratic system would not itself become a racist undemocratic system! There’s massive political violence, widespread election rigging (isn’t it interesting that recounts are so often called when the party in power loses an election? *coughFloridacough*), as well as accusations on both sides of trying to manipulate the electorate, in a way which means democracy cannot flourish. Which is why it’s so important that the people do get their chance to speak out, even if it does end up being rigged.

Morgan Tvangarai and the Movement for Democratic Change announced this morning that they are considering pulling out of the run-off Presidential election. I think this is a mistake. If the election is unfair, the election observers in the UN will say so, so it doesn’t matter if the election is rigged against them. In the meantime there is the chance that it will be fair, and that Robert Mugabe will be voted out, and I think they should take that chance. Lives can be saved, much more than the 70 of the MDC’s supporters who have been killed so far.

In the meantime, there is a problem with a more direct form of democracy. The Irish people have voted against the Lisbon treaty in a referendum. Now you may say that there is no purer form of democracy than a referendum, because the people literally vote on the individual issue, so it couldn’t be any clearer, but in many ways it is too simplistic. Many political analysts are saying this is the Irish telling Europe to ‘feck off’. But it might not be. If I were to vote in a referendum on this issue, I’d vote against it, but not because I don’t agree with the general principle of European integration. The treaty makes the EU less democratic, putting power firmly in the hands of the commission rather than in the Parliament that the people have voted for, which is why I disagree with it. So a no vote has many more layers than just “no”.

Apologies for this being such a ramble.

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