Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

December 23, 2005

This Is American “Democracy”

It should come as no surprise that Iraqis are complaining of “election” fraud considering this is a business George Bush knows intimately, having risen to power on a fixed election and this time, the scam is intended to divide Iraq as the American agenda calls for.

According to reports from AP, some Sunni Arabs and a secular party charge that the so-called parliamentary elections were riddled with fraud, and have demanded an inquiry into preliminary results that show the Shiite religious bloc with a proportional larger than expected lead.

While Bush pitched a “unified” Iraq in his many speeches last week, the hostile climate that now exists threatens to divide the entire country. Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Sunni Arab alliance the Iraqi Accordance Front, listed several complaints, including voting centers failing to open, shortages in election materials and reports of multiple voting.

“There are many violations and there is forgery,” al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press. Electoral commission offici
al Farid Ayar said he has received more than 1,000 formal complaints, 20 of which were serious, or “red.” He said he did not expect the complaints would change the overall result, which is to be announced in January. A secular coalition charged that the election commission was a tool of the religious Shiite-dominated government.

Jihad Unspun reports.
(The article is featured as a reflection of ideological views of part of the Arab world. Democratic Thinking does not support or endorse such views)

December 21, 2005

Mission Democracy

In an old building covered in scaffolding in the backstreets of London’s Southwark district, a staircase leads to the dingy, top-floor offices of Electoral Reform International Services (Eris). The rumble of the trains and the clang of construction-workers’ hammers outside add to the sense that this is an unlikely setting for an organisation which offers advice to democracies all over the world.

But appearances can deceive. In one corner of the office, dozens of coloured pins stuck on a large map of the world denote the countries where Eris – founded in 1992 as an independent and non-political institute, a division of the long-established Electoral Reform Society (ERS) – has provided support to emerging democratic regimes.

Eris’s work aims to support young or emerging democracies around the world. It helps ensure that elections are free and fair, engages in electoral education and assists in good governance. Eris’s projects also educate new voters about electoral law, aid electoral commissions in their work, make sure elections are transparent, and work towards democratic consolidation.

Full article.

December 20, 2005

Fast food democracy

There are now triumphal murmurings emanating from the crusader headquarters in Washington and London. The last few attempts at installing some of the trappings of democracy in Iraq have been catastrophic failures. However last Thursday's election, with its estimated 70% turnout, has been hailed as a major success. So in some quarters there is an assumption that a high turn out at the polls and relatively (considering it is a war zone) low violence is equated with normality and stability. This is not the case. Normality has not prevailed for nearly a century in the region. Stability has not been seen since the invasion and occupation in 2003.

The pre-election period was far from any form of normality in every respect. Politically there were assassinations, party headquarters burned, and abductions. These were all largely unreported by Western corporate media. The former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi said, on the record, that human rights in President George W Bush's Iraq are worse than they were under Saddam. The PM at the time of the elections, Ibrahim Jaafari's accused Allawi of defending the occupiers, whist Allawi accused Jaafari's government of corruption. Then there was Ahmad Chalabi's, campaign posters which boasted, "We liberated Iraq." The whole state of affairs is farcical. However, the stark reality of it all reveals that there is no lighter side to this situation.

More here.

December 18, 2005

Democracy in Iraq say Iranians

Despite all violence and bloodshed in Iraq, democracy is on the march in the war-torn country, said an Iranian daily on Sunday.

Commenting on the December 15 parliamentary elections in Iraq, 'Iran News' said it was reported that 70 percent of the 15.5 million Iraqi eligible voters took part in the event.

"The people of Iraq believe in the democratic process and want their war-torn country's many problems solved peacefully by ballots and not by bullets," stressed the editorial.

However, it noted the road ahead for Iraq is difficult, costly, frustrating and with human sacrifice.

"The fact is producing a decent and democratic Iraq is one of the greatest challenges in the world today," stressed the paper referring to a number of challenges facing the Iraqi politicians.

"Containing the violence, bringing in parts of the insurgency into the political process, forming a government and avoiding civil war" were parts of the great strive in face of the Iraqi leaders, it said.

Full article.

December 17, 2005

Bolivian Democracy and the US

The prospect of socialist peasant leader Evo Morales as Bolivia's next president disturbed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Charles Shapiro. "It would not be welcome news in Washington to see the increasingly belligerent Cuban-Venezuelan combo become a trio," he emailed on October 21, 2005 to the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer (Dec 4, 2005).

Shapiro combined buzz words with clichés. "The nature and scope of our cooperation with the next Bolivian government will depend on our shared interests: strengthening democracy, fostering economic development and combating illegal narcotics, along with that government's commitment to its international obligations."

These trite but coded phrases tell the next Bolivian government: do Washington's bidding, or get your butt kicked. Shapiro may think that phrases like "shared interests" and "democracy" Shapiro turn him into a literary magician: "Presto, the coin (history) has vanished."

Such routine pronouncements on US-Latin America policy presume that a policy exists, something beyond Washington demanding Latin American obedience to its dictates, so that US companies can continue their looting. Throughout, the last century, the United States has provided different labels for its domination. By the early 20th Century, the Monroe Doctrine took the form of "Gunboat Diplomacy." The Navy would routinely intervene to protect US investments and ensure "stable"--read obedient -- governments.

December 11, 2005

Protecting Palestinian Democracy from Israeli Practices

Spokesperson of Presidency, Nabil Abu Rdaina, called Sunday the Quartet Committee and the international community to protect the Palestinian democracy from the Israeli practices.

In a statement issued Sunday night Abu Rdaina called the Quartet Committee and the international community to immediately intervene to end the Israeli atrocious measures against the imminent legislative elections and the whole Palestinian democracy.

He reiterated that the latest Israeli practices, target hampering the electoral process and curbing the Palestinian democracy.

He mentioned that Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continued assassinating and arresting of Palestinian citizens, assaulting them and restricting their movement, especially in Jenin, lead to hampering the electoral campaign and the whole electoral process.

Abu Rdaina concluded by saying that at the time the Palestinian national Authority achieved key results on security, Israel insists to ignore its obligations and to shake truce.

More here.

December 07, 2005

Black America: equality, crime and education

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said in 1988: "I am leaving this legacy to all of you to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfilment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die - the dream of freedom and peace."

Rosa Parks made her stand in Alabama on 1 December 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white man and sparked the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott and the beginning of the US civil rights movement. The rebellious act, at the time, could have meant a jail sentence or even the risk of death by vigilantes. She was arrested and fined 14 dollars.

The boycott was organized by a then little-known Baptist minister called Martin Luther King Junior. A year later, in March 1956 Dr. King was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott the buses in Montgomery, but a judge suspended his 500 dollar fine, pending an appeal. The boycott came a year after the US Supreme Court outlawed deliberate racial segregation in public schools in 1954. Clinton High School became the first state-supported school in Tennessee to integrate in August 1956.

More boycotts, sit-ins and protest marches resulted in the 1960s legislation which outlawed racial discrimination and the establishment of the emancipation of black people in the United States of America.

African-Americans are freer, wealthier and more influential forty years after the Voting Rights Act, but while the achievements of those who struggled to get emancipation and equality are celebrated, many African-Americans are still questioning how far they have really come.

More from Wanabehuman.

Democracy and Colonialism

Israeli politics is boiling.

People rejoice: finally, it seems, the deadlock is collapsing. Amir Peretz, a young, Eastern, social-democratically oriented leader took over the petrified Labor Party from the opportunistic Shimon Peres – the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East, and later kidnapped the Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu.

Just days after these surprising primaries, and following Peretz's pullout from his coalition, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left his ruling Likud Party, taking with him a third of the party's Knesset fraction and, according to polls, most of its voters. The old bulldozer is now reshaping the Israeli political map: the present parliament suffered, as usual, an early death; Sharon created his new, private party, Kadima, and since Israeli mainstream politicians usually adapt their views to their party affiliation rather than vice-versa, numerous dizzy politicians – but also quite a few academics, journalists, and other newcomers – are now choosing a new party and worldview that will hopefully assure them the benefits of power after the coming election in March 2006.

More here.

December 05, 2005

EU questions commitment to democracy

The European Union has deplored serious irregularities reported during Armenia’s disputed constitutional referendum, saying that they raised fresh questions about the Armenian government’s commitment to democracy.

“The EU is concerned at reports of ballot stuffing and manipulation of the turnout figures and of intimidation of local observers during the referendum held on 27 November. A failure to prevent activities such as this call into question Armenia's commitment to transparency and democracy,” the British embassy in Yerevan said in a weekend statement issued on behalf of the 25-nation union.

The statement cited the preliminary findings of a monitoring mission from the Council of Europe that effectively challenged the official referendum results which led the Armenian authorities to declare their package of constitutional amendments passed. The 14-strong mission noted in particular a striking discrepancy between largely empty polling stations and a record-high voter turnout reported by the government-controlled Central Election Commission. Armenian officials insist that the irregularities were not serious enough to affect the outcome of the vote.

More here.

December 02, 2005

Bushmen answer to BBC Radio 4

The organization of the central Kalahari Bushmen has published a statement denouncing the recent BBC Radio 4 programme 'Crossing Continents', which accused Survival of 'making things worse' for the Bushmen.

The Bushmen said, 'Survival has proved it is working for [us] and we have benefited a lot from their help. Unlike Kuru and Ditshwanelo, Survival is an organisation who does actually support the people of the CKGR.'

Descriptions of the programme on its 'Have your say' page include 'hatchet job' and 'ridiculously biased' against the Bushmen.

Survival International has been advocating for the return of the Botswana San Bushmen to their homelands and has proved that diamond giant De Beers is collaborating with the local government for the ethnic cleansing of the bushmen.

Australia’s reconciliation bill

This Sunday, 4 December 2005, marks five years since the end of Australia’s “decade of reconciliation”. On the same day in 2000, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (Car) submitted its final report, containing the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and the Reconciliation Bill 2001, to the federal parliament in Canberra.

The symbolic end to the decade had come earlier in the year, when nearly 250,000 people marched across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, urging the prime minister (then, as now, John Howard) to say “sorry”. More large walks followed in the other capital cities, demonstrating popular support for the reconciliation process.

What has happened since? John Howard sentenced the Car’s declaration to failure when he issued his own version on the same day. The government took almost two years to formally respond to the final report, and then rejected most of its recommendations. When Senator Aden Ridgeway introduced a Reconciliation Bill in 2001 and 2003, not even the opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) supported it, let alone the conservative National Party government. Car’s successor body, Reconciliation Australia, is a non-profit foundation with no statutory role, no recurrent funding and no formal responsibility for leading the national-reconciliation process.

Mark Byrne.

The love of democracy in Nepal

The love of democracy is truly becoming infectious. In a speech on last February 14 that has been described as a new South Asia doctrine, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said: "India would like the whole of South Asia to emerge as a community of flourishing democracies." Speaking out against "short-term expediency", he argued that only democracy could guarantee peace and co-operation in the subcontinent.

Sharansky couldn't have said it better. We even appear to have put the doctrine into practice. Incensed by King Gyanendra's constitution-sanctioned take-over on February 1, India has cut off all arms supplies to the Himalayan kingdom. Britain has followed suit and the US in what was President Bush's first democracy test in his second term, has approved.

Policy wonks in Delhi say that this too-clever-by-half King has to be taught a lesson he wouldn't forget in a hurry. Meanwhile, Indian intelligence has boasted preliminary contacts with the Maoist insurgents who are said to control three-fourths of Nepal. South Block groupies are busy going around arguing that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) isn't really a revolutionary outfit; it just wants land reforms. In the land of Gandhi and Nehru, it pays to feign loftiness. We even outdo the Americans in this department. Our track record is nobleslavish endorsement of the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, generous support for every corrupt African dictator, nurturing the LTTE in Sri Lanka and cutting deals with the generals in Myanmar and Pakistan, and the communist apparatchiks in China. Yet, as Saran said in his speech, "Our sympathy will always be with democratic and secular forces."

It's great to have a slogan. In statecraft, however, it pays to pursue realism. The immediate conflict in Nepal is only peripherally between democracy and monarchy. If only it had been so simple. The war is between the Nepali state and Maoists. There may be lots hideously wrong with the present dispensation in Kathmandu.

The palace still runs along medieval lines, the Royal Nepalese Army lacks inspired leadership and the political parties are shortsighted, fractious and even corrupt. But let us not forget for a single moment that the Maoists began their insurgency in 1996 when in Nepal there was a civilian, elected government at the helm. The Maoists sing different tunes according to convenience.

Swapan Dasgupta