Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

November 30, 2005

Armenia’s democracy

November 2005 has proved to be a bad month for democracy in the south Caucasus. After the fraudulent election in Azerbaijan on 6 November, where international attention on the region remain focused after the vote in the light of protests over the results, Armenians went to the polls on 27 November in a government-sponsored national referendum on amendments to the 1995 constitution. There were only a handful of international monitors, but they and local observer groups reported large-scale fraud – particularly inflation of turnout numbers, ballot-stuffing and intimidation of observers.

The Central Election Commission reported a 65% turnout amongst the 2.4 million registered voters, with over 93% – 1.4 million people – voting "yes". This official figure, similar to the one reported after the hotly contested second round of the 2003 presidential poll, suggests bustling voter activity. Yet NGO and media observers walked into eerily deserted polling stations; International Crisis Group observers, visiting three separate Yerevan polling stations, each time for forty-five-minute periods, saw no more than thirty people in total voting. Council of Europe observers stated that the "extremely low voting activity did not correspond to the high figures provided by the elections commission."

Full article.

Likud as an obstacle to democracy

The decision by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to break with the Likud party that he helped to form 30 years ago is the latest expression of a political crisis that is unfolding in Israel.

On November 21, the 77-year-old Sharon called a news conference to announce that he was quitting Likud to form a new party—Kadima (Forward). He said that “Life had become unbearable in the Likud party,” referring to the elements that had opposed his unilateral disengagement from Gaza. “Likud in its present form cannot lead Israel to its national goals,” he continued.

As a result of Sharon’s move, new national elections have been set for March of next year.

Sharon takes with him 14 Likud members of parliament, including Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and one Labour Party cabinet minister, Haim Ramon, thereby exceeding the threshold to qualify for a $2 million advance in state election funding. He is expecting further defections from Labour and counting on some delegates from the “free market” liberal Shinui party to join him.

More here.

November 28, 2005

The young people's vote

Displaying characteristic humor, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson laid it on the line for a student-dominated crowd that attended his talk November 17 about the importance of voting in the democratic process.

Bruce McPherson and Michael Hutchison

"Only one of four of you cared enough to participate in the most basic right and duty we have in our democracy," McPherson said, referring to the low participation of potential voters aged 18 to 24. "What's up with that? That's a pathetic statistic."

McPherson addressed about 300 people who turned out for the Social Sciences Division's Distinguished Guest Lecture, discussing the recent special election, the initiative process, and doing his best to inspire young people to vote.

More here.

November 26, 2005

"Dick" Cheney

The neo-cons have been wrong about everything but that never gives them pause. Perhaps they are going to just keep trying until they get something right. Sidney Blumenthal writes a great article about some of Cheney's history and how we come to be stuck with him today.

If you look up the word arrogance you will find Cheney's face. Too bad he happens to be a citizen of the United States. If he lived in a Gulf nation in the middle east he would make a perfect leader who could abuse power and abuse his own people.

More from Sentinel South.

November 25, 2005

Internet governance politics

The issues of Internet governance were resolved at 2230 UTC the night before the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis was to be held between 16-18 November 2005.

In the end, the status quo was maintained, with the overall operational and technical functions of the internet remaining under US control. The US government will control internet functions such as domain name systems and root servers; as well as the Californian-based, nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which looks after it all. Head of ICANN Paul Twomey said: "This is a powerful outcome, the 'win' that everybody wanted."

Kenneth Neil Cukier writes in the November/December 2005 issue of US-based Foreign Affairs journal that "the controversy over who controls the internet has simmered in insular technology-policy circles for years". The global telephone system is administered by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the world's oldest international treaty organization, founded in 1865 and a part of the UN. Many of the governments of the world have criticized the current arrangement, some calling ICANN "an instrument of American hegemony over cyberspace: its private-sector approach favours the United States, Washington retains oversight authority, and its Governmental Advisory Committee, composed of delegates from other nations, has not real powers", writes Cukier. Many of the governments of the world wanted the administration of the internet to fall under an international treaty, like the phone network.

Read the full article from WanabeHuman.

Israel’s political map

In the five years since the Palestinians launched their second, more deadly, intifada, the pragmatic Israeli right has grudgingly acknowledged that the dream of a Greater Israel stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan is no longer attainable. The demographic and security price, it admits, is too high. At the same time, the pragmatic left has grudgingly acknowledged that the right was not always wrong in its pessimistic assessment of Palestinian intentions. The 1993 Oslo agreement, the left still contends, was an important breakthrough, but twelve years later it has yet to deliver a comprehensive peace.

The polar icecaps are melting. It has become possible to redraw Israel’s political map. In August 2005, Ariel Sharon created a precedent by evacuating twenty-one settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank. Three months later, on 21 November, he announced that he was breaking from the right-wing Likud (Hebrew for “Unity”) and launching a new centre-right party, Kadima (“Forward”).

More from Eric Silver.

French blogger faces trial

French political activist Christophe Grebert faces defamation charges and is to face a trial in February 2006 brought on by the city of Puteaux (a prosperous Paris suburb) says a report by Elisabeth Eaves published in the November issue of the journal Foreign Policy.

Grebert started a weblog,, in 2002 to bring attention to the local government's alleged "waste and mismanagement" of public funds. The report said that Charles Ceccaldi-Raynaud had held the mayor's position in Puteaux for more than 30 years. Grébert typically wrote about Joelle Ceccaldi-Raynaud, Charles Ceccaldi-Raynaud's daughter, deputy and successor in 2004, spending allegedly over 900,000 dollars on a new public fountain. The trial itself is to cost some 33,000 dollars out of the city's budget.

More from Wanabehuman.

Italy general strike is democracy

Above and beyond whether it is sacrosanct or useless the strike is the demonstration of discomfort of a part of the workers movement and should always be respected." Thus said Speaker of the House, Pierferdinando Casini, interviewed by Tg3 in Barcelona over the strike today against the budget. "I believe that a serious administrative class, like us, needs to take on the reasons for the protests. This is democracy.

Pierferdinando Casini

November 23, 2005

Will Northern Ireland Suffer?

The carve-up of local government in Northern Ireland resulting in the creation of seven "super councils" to replace the existing 26 district authorities is a recipe for further political deadlock and community confrontation in the Province.
The Government has contemptuously brushed aside the expressed options of four of the five main parties on the way forward for local government and once again aligned itself with Sinn Fein in a plan which will dangerously divide Northern Ireland along rigid sectarian lines.

More here.

November 20, 2005

Corporations and foreign investment

The link between production and the international economy, or the global production system, is a complex process with millions of workers, and workplaces integrated into diverse local, national, regional and global systems (O’Brien & Williams p.167).

In order to understand the structure of global production, focus must be drawn to the transnational corporation (TNC). TNC is defined as a firm that owns and controls production (value-added) facilities in two or more countries.

Increasing levels of foreign direct investment has brought about a transformation of the global production system and the growth of the TNC. TNCs account for the major part of the global production structure, and approximately 50 per cent of world trade.

Report by Aurgha Mahmud.

Install democracy 2005

Didn't the U.S. install a democracy in Vietnam once upon a time...?

The U.S. Congress appears to want to keep U.S. forces in Iraq till the job is done, until "victory" is won. Of course, they have not defined what will constitute victory, except in shifting terms. The latest definition of victory might be the establishment of an elected government under the new Iraqi constitution. But how meaningful will the establishment of such a government actually be in historic terms? Will the entire process established by the U.S. in its administration of a government of Iraq by the U.S., for the U.S. and of the U.S. stand the test of time?

The former U.S.-installed government of the Republic of Vietnam certainly did not stand the test of time. Yes, the U.S. sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to Vietnam once upon a time. And the U.S. helped institute a democracy in Vietnam with elected president who depended upon the U.S. for security much as the current elected Iraqi government does now. And the Vietnamese insurgency took hold and eventually ran the U.S. and its formidable military out of Vietnam, just as the Iraqi insurgents are in the process of doing.

Full article here.

November 12, 2005

Forgive but don't forget

There should be no one on this planet that doesn't welcome Turkey's efforts to stop the genocide and political sanctions against the Armenian and the Kurds and the ongoing aggressive stance against Greece and Cyprus with war threats and daily air-space violations. We should also not forget though that despite few improvements there is still a very long way to go.

For all those that consider Turkey's inclusion in the European Union there is still a single argument against, that is impossible to resolve:

Turkey's geographical and geo-political position.

Although a small part of Turkey borders with Europe, the majority of the country's inland and borders remain at the north Middle East and West Asia. In fact most major Turkish cities - excluding Istanbul - have no European characteristics whatsoever. Neither have the inhabitants of these territories anything in common with the average European man and woman.
So when the Americans and the British campaign for the inclusion of a country, that doesn't get along with any of its neighbor's, in the European Union, they suggest merging two alien civilizations. They also indirectly suggest that Syria, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and neighbor countries will also at some point have to be regarded as European members.

There is nothing wrong with that, as long as we find a new name for this cross-border cross-cultural Union.

Bushman found dead in reserve

The latest victim of the Botswana government's eviction of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen died last week in the Central Kalahari. Qoroxloo Duxee is thought to have starved to death after wildlife scouts blockaded the reserve and stopped the Bushmen gathering food.

Qoroxloo Duxee told the BBC in June:
When I was young the men hunted and we got our water from the roots of plants. We lived well and people only died of old age.'

She died near the community of Metsiamenong, where Bushmen continue to resist efforts to force them out. The Bushman organisation First People of the Kalahari (FPK) said in a press release on Monday that she died of hunger and thirst as wildlife scouts would not let her gather food, or that the scouts killed her.'

Bushmen evicted from the reserve in recent weeks say that wildlife scouts threatened to kill them if they tried to hunt or gather food. Police fired teargas and bullets at Bushmen who tried to take food and water into the reserve in September, and then arrested them.

Find out more about Survival International's ongoing struggle to save the Botswana Bushmen by campaigning against the government and influential diamond miners De Beers.

American Democracy died an electronic death

While debate still rages over Ohio's stolen presidential election of 2004, the impossible outcomes of key 2005 referendum issues may have put an electronic nail through American democracy.

Once again, the Buckeye state has hosted an astonishing display of electronic manipulation that calls into question the sanctity of America's right to vote, and to have those votes counted in this crucial swing state.

The controversy has been vastly enhanced due to the simultaneous installation of new electronic voting machines in nearly half the state's 88 counties, machines the General Accounting Office has now confirmed could be easily hacked by a very small number of people.

Last year, the US presidency was decided here. This year, a bond issue and four hard-fought election reform propositions are in question.

Read more.

November 07, 2005

Democracy in Latin America

Wanabehuman reports that a Chilean non-profit organization based in Santiago, Chile, has published a poll taken in 18 countries in Latin America. The poll said that around half of Latin Americans would refer to themselves as democrats and a third are satisfied with the democracy and democratic institutions in place in their country. The poll was published in the UK-based Economist magazine on 29 October.

More from Wanabehuman.

November 06, 2005

The Bad Democracy Award

This month openDemocracy has launched its Bad Democracy Award.

The system – composed by a gaggle of constitutional experts working to exacting deadlines, works like this:
  • each month, you email your nominations for the month’s worst democrat
  • the nomination can be from any country or institution in the world, as far away or as close to home as you like
  • the candidate you propose might be a politician who has abused his mandate, pilfered from the public purse or betrayed public trust; a tyrant who has feasted while his people starve; a corporation, committee, party, army, sect, vicar, imam or mandarin who has undermined democratic governance
  • a shortlist of the six most heinous candidates will then be put to the vote – your vote, that is
  • each monthly victor will be informed of their success and sent an appropriate garland of shame
  • after a year, readers will be invited to crown one of our twelve reprobates Bad Democrat of the Year
  • the possibilities don’t end there: we may even invite the year’s nominees to pick their own choice for Bad Democrats’ Bad Democrat; and if all goes to plan, the whole project will culminate in an annual shindig of staggering gluttony during which the planet’s despots, fiddlers, riggers, rogues, bungsters, grafters and gerrymanderers will be presented with statuettes by – who else? – Imelda Marcos and Henry Kissinger
Happy voting!