Sunday, November 06, 2011

Is the West afraid of democracy?

In recent times, governments in both, the US and Europe have shown that this could indeed be true!
We now look at a few examples in recent years, of the West running scared of true democracy.
  • Hamas was democratically elected as the governing party in a free and fair election which the US itself had approved of holding. Since that victory, neither Israel nor the US have recognized the Hamas government as a legitimately elected government in Gaza and the West Bank. All its talk of exporting democracy to justify ousting despots has been shown to be hollow and self-serving.
  • The US also took an inordinately long time before ditching its long-time ally Hosni Mubarak, and throwing their lot with a spontaneous non-violent democratic uprising in Egypt.
  • The current move to scuttle Palestine's application to be recognized as a country and admitted to full membership of the UN via a US veto in the Security Council is another example of the US running scared of democracy in action. The vote in UNESCO, where the US has no veto, shows what would happen if true democracy were allowed to prevail. 107 countries voted for admitting Palestine as a member of UNESCO while 14 countries (basically the US, Israel and like-minded countries) voted against.
  • Poland, Czechoslovakia, among several countries, wanted a referendum (the most democratic method, where every citizen can participate in the decision) to decide on the Lisbon Treaty (proposing constitutional change in the EU). However, they were all prevailed upon to not hold the referendum; instead, elected representatives alone ratified it.
  • Ireland, however, held a referendum and the proposal to join the EU was defeated. A year later, another referendum was forced to be held in Ireland on the same question when enough votes swung in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. That decision was hailed as a resounding endorsement of the Lisbon Treaty. This is a new kind of democracy where you repeatedly ask the same question, till you get the answer you want.
  • The most recent case is when the Greek PM, George Papandreou proposed that the rescue package cobbled together by Germany and a few other EU countries be voted on by the people of Greece (referendum). It had the effect of a hungry cat among a flock of alarmed pigeons. Why should the prospects of a Greek referendum trouble the richer countries?
  • Because Greece as a country is any way in a soup, whether they agree to the rescue package, or don't. It is has a choice of entering 8-ft deep water, or 25-ft deep water. The real rescue package is not for Greece, but for the banks in the developed countries that are holding Greek government bonds that have fallen steeply in value. For them, it s the difference between accessing EU's rescue funds to rescue them from the fallout of poor investment decisions and not getting that access, and bearing the entire loss themselves. With the backdrop of Occupy Wall Street campaign, and the widespread anger against bankers, a referendum would almost certainly return a resounding “NO” to the EU package.
  • So it is not a surprise that Papandreou was prevailed upon to abandon his idea of a referendum. It continues the long saga of the democracies fearing democracy.

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