Thursday, March 24, 2005

Democracy in Action? Kyrgyzstan and the Folly of Revolution

The language of democracy is a curious thing. From origins in Greece through Rousseau, the French and American revolutions, through the Cold War and the Media revolution, it has changed irrevocably into a populism that was never intended. The dilution of Platonic democracy (everyone gets a vote if they're smart and rich) to universal suffrage (everyone gets a vote even if they're stupid, gullible, easily led and unlikely to contribute to society) has never been designed, but guided by a power-lust that we creatures have in us. Being somewhere in the middle was OK, in theory, but the natural inclination of man has pushed us too far towards the mob.

Recently, Victor Yuschenko's velvet revolution in Ukraine, overthrew a democratically elected government and the people rejoiced. Basically, they weren't happy with things, and the rule-book was thrown out the window. Recently, encouraged by this, the Kyrgyzstan people have begun a similar battle. This is not how democracy should work. In both instances, rigged elections acted as a catalyst for popular revolt - but does the rigging of the election or the 'necessary' unilateral popular force that overthrows its result rank higher in the pantheon of 'offences against democracy'? Can Yuschenko's people truly say, hand on heart, that they were entirely fair and honest in their management of the first election, or could it be argued that their petty meddling provided the necessary provocation (justification?) for the electoral larceny of the incumbent? Who therefore gave them the right, the mandate, the legitimacy to decide that their dissappointment in not stealing enough votes trumped the legitimate votes of the victors?

The American's are no pin-up for how things should go either. While one could argue that Bush stole the election in 2000, one could argue that he almost had it stolen from him, such were the abuses on both sides. The corruption and manipulation of voting systems around the world, and in every democracy in the world, is undermining the principles for which democratic governments claim as their legitimacy.

Corruption is crippling the legitimacy of democracy. There are several reasons for this - greed, the lack of religion (and implicitly idealism), the lack of true global leadership, the gullibility of the populace, the abuse of the power of the media, the ever increasing power of the media, the lack of international support for truly just causes, the absolute international support for politically relevant or strategic unjust causes, the lack of consistency, predictability, integrity.

People can't see these problems, but can see the symptoms. While the World Economy powers ahead, things will be fine. When the World Economy runs into difficulty, what will happen then? If the price of oil hits $200 a barrell in the next ten years, will the populace remain so compliant, and acquiesce? Perhaps Pat Rabbitte and the Labour Party will once more find a voice.

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