OBAMA AND DEMOCRACY
ABDUL GHAFUR KASI
Barack Obama in his election campaign said: “yes we can”. He was referring to the changes that he would bring about in the US, if elected President of the USA – he was elected by democratic suffrage. Until now he has been a total disappointment. So far he has given the world the message, “No you can’t”. His role in the recent uprisings in Middle East has been dismal.
Democracy is a well known term. It is also a vague political term. Concept of democracy is majority rule. Without majority representation there is no democracy. In the corridors of power, particularly in the developing countries, the buzz word is: democracy this, and democracy that! It is believed to be the cure for all political and social ills . However, it is difficult to assess that democracy can actualize the needs of the people and fulfilling peoples’ wishes – not to mention it can cure the ills of the world.
In democracy every person of certain age has the right to cast a vote irrespective of sex, creed, colour, culture, age, sexual orientation and physical well-being, etc. Democracy is consensus of the people in matters that direct their interest. It is derived from a Greek word, ‘Demokratica’ – meaning: rule of the people. Democracy has different shapes and forms, i.e. direct democracy; liberal democracy, parliamentary democracy, peoples democracy, etc. In true democracy, the power is distributed into: legislature, executive and judiciary. They are supposed to be independent functions of the state. Democratic values are based on: 1. Fair and free elections; 2. freedom of political expression and association; 3. freedom of speech and press. These core values cover political pluralism, equality before the law, right of petition, civil liberties, human rights, civil society, etc.
Democracy has evolved in most developed countries, almost in similar way. In Britain, it started with Magna Carta in 1215, when the powers of the monarch were restricted. Followed by Habeas Corpus, safeguarding the rights of every individual and right to appeal. Bill of rights in 1989, and Reform Act 1832, extended the democratic boundaries to all the male population. In Britain the seeds of democracy were stowed in the village halls and Parishes. In America the democratic values were defined by the constitution of America in 1788. White male with property had the right to vote. After the civil war 4 million newly freed slaves became citizen and could vote. In 1848, France established a universal male suffrage after the French revolution. Several European countries faced popular demand for liberal constitution and democratic government. The wave of democracy took over Europe after the WWI. Revolution and decolonization and devolution of the empires like Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian took place. In 1920, democracy suffered a setback as the great depression brought disenchantment in most countries of Europe. Consequently, fascism emerged in countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, etc. World War II, reversed the trend. America, Britain and France set the future agenda for Europe – Germany and Japan were occupied and disarmed. The communist country Russia bargained its share, after the WWII established the Soviet bloc. In Asia and South Americas waves of democracy changed the political landscape. The trend continues: Bulldozer revolution in Yugoslavia; Rose revolution in Georgia; Orange Revolution in Ukraine; Cedar revolution in Lebanon; Tulip revolution in Kyrgyzstan, and recently the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia – and is spreading amongst other North Africa and Middle East countries.
According to: World Forum of Democracy 120 of 192 countries are democratic that makes 58.2% of world population. How feasible is democracy in the poor countries? For democray to evolve in a reasonable manner, it is important that education, cognitive development, rational choices and better information is provided to the masses (Deary et al 2008; Rindermann 2008). In developed countries the people are relatively wealthier, more educated, less unequal and better informed, so the rigging of election is not easy. Democracy becomes inefficient and dysfunctional, when the media is manipulated and politics becomes an empty slogan of disinformation. Inequality, political illiteracy and lack of informed participation and lack of rational choices amongst the people, lead to rigging and manipulation of elections and democratic institutions. Unfortunately the democratic countries are impotently observing the process and doing nothing to enhance the infrastructure of the poor countries. They usually address the issues with double standards. Consequently, we see nothing changes in the developing countries. Because the West protects its interest. Developed countries have one objective, and that is to protect their interest at the cost of the developing countries. The two main interests are security and energy resources. Both the interests should be equally shared and responsibly executed for the benefits and interests of both parties.
It cannot be put in a better way as done by Vilfredo Pareto and Gaelanio Mosca. “They argued, democracy was illusionary and served only to mask the reality of elite rule. Indeed they argued, elite oligarchy is unbendable law of human nature due largely to the apathy and division of the masses (as opposed to drive, initiative and unity of the elites) and that democratic institutions would do no more than shift the exercise of power from oppression to manipulation”.
The recent uprising in North Africa and Middle East has exposed the scope of hypocrisy of the democratic countries. The propped-up dictators, stooges and poodles are projected as being elected democratically. It is a sham and nothing more than the stealth oppression of the people in these countries. Tunisia and Egypt have opened the path for a change in the region. The kingdoms in Middle East will stick together and help each other to protect directly and indirectly their own financial and political interests. In the long run, it will be detrimental for the people and countries of the region. All the leaders in the various Middle East states are worried, but are adamant to supress the unrest, because they know, if one of them goes, it will have a domino effect. Libya is different from Egypt and Tunisia. It is not a propped-up dictatorship by the US. In my opinion, the unrest in Libya was prompted from outside. The evidence is there that foreign commando’s were involved in Benghazi protest. According to news agencies, seven of the British commandos were arrested in Libya, a few weeks ago, by the opposition forces and were later released. The irony is that during Egypt’s uprising the British prime minister went to many Middle East countries and took with him a delegation of Arms dealers. This shows how interested he is in the rights of the people! He is selling arms to the political elite that are killing their own citizens.
The US is not coming clear on the issues in Middle East. It is quick to support the unrest in Iran and Lebanon but is quite, in supporting the protestors of Yemen, Bahrain, etc., even though the majority wants a change. Mosad and CIA are busy planning to divert the effect of such uprisings. They will use the sectarian card. In Egypt it will be Muslims against Coptic Christians; in Bahrain it will be Sunni against Shia; in Saudi Arabia it will be Shia against the Sunni state. The fact is: it is not about Sunni or Shia, it is about freedom. The only beneficiary of ‘status quo’ are the political elites of these countries. The very method they are using in Pakistan to excite hatred amongst various sections and religious sects of the country, while keeping the political elite united. The current uprisings in Middle East and Africa are not socialist or communist uprisings – the people are demanding: an elected government, a good governance and the removal of government, if they wish to do so by voting. So why cant the west accept the fact that democracy is the rule of the people. Supporting the people will strengthen the power of democracy. The role of the western governments in the affairs of other countries is hypocrisy not democracy. It is time to change: “Yes we can” and “yes you can”, too!
Dr Abdul Ghafoor Kasi