Friday, February 01, 2008

"Elections, schmeck-shuns...."

Something I've said (as have many others) for quite some time is that "elections" don't make a democracy. I said it about Yugoslavia, I said it about Dubya's 2000 selection, I've said it about the "purple finger" crapola in Iraq.

"Elections" are a necessary but not a sufficient condition.

Human Rights Watch tots up the facts here (full report here):
Western countries are turning a blind eye to flawed and unfair elections, such as those in Kenya, giving autocrats a veneer of acceptability and allowing sham democracies to thrive, Human Rights Watch said in its annual report published yesterday.

"States claiming the mantle of democracy, including Kenya and Pakistan, should guarantee the human rights that are central to it, including the rights to free expression, assembly and association, as well as free and fair elections," it said. "By allowing autocrats to pose as democrats... the United States, the European Union and other influential democracies risk undermining human rights worldwide."

Kenya's presidential election on 27 December that returned the incumbent Mwai Kibaki to power was widely condemned as fraudulent. About 850 people have been killed and almost a quarter of a million others have fled their homes in a wave of ethnic violence, that was originally triggered by the poll but which has now taken momentum of its own.

"Too many Western governments insist on elections and leave it at that," said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch. "It seems Washington and European governments will accept even the most dubious election so long as the 'victor' is a strategic or commercial ally."

Indeed. I think there's way too much reliance on "results-oriented" foreign policy, and not enough emphasis on the basics of democratic theory.

I can't recommend strongly enough the latest book by Stephen Kinzer, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq", which puts the lie to the American claim to be the great promoter of democracy across the globe.

The current maladministration's continual reference to the "regime" in Iran is just more of the same contempt for countries whose elected leaders happen to oppose the U.S. When Iran had their last election (wow, you mean those Iranians actually had elections?... who wouldda known, listening to Dubya...), the U.S. backed current President Ahmadinejad's opponent, Rafsanjani ... for which Rafsanjani probably said, "Thanks a lot, a$$holes. Maybe next time Satan will endorse me too and I'll win in a landslide...."

When we own up to our past (and present) behaviour, and get away from this long pattern of dishonesty and anti-democratic behaviour, maybe the rest of the world will start looking up to us again, and maybe we'll start doing more good than harm around the world.


At 4:38 PM, Blogger adrian2514 said...

I really enjoy reading your blog, it always has great insight. But I am very frustrated with the media’s lack of questions to the presidential candidates about global warming. Now that it is down to just a few candidates I would think that this would be a bigger issue.

Live Earth just picked up this topic and put out an article ( ) asking why the presidential candidates are not being solicited for their stance on the issue of the climate change. I just saw an article describing each candidate’s stance on global warming and climate change on . So obviously they care about it. Is it the Medias fault for not asking the right questions or is it the candidates’ fault for not highlighting the right platforms? Does anyone know of other websites or articles that touch on this subject and candidates’ views? This is the biggest problem of the century and for generations to come…you would think the next president of the United States would be more vocal about it.

At 5:29 PM, Blogger Arne Langsetmo said...


Live Earth just picked up this topic and put out an article asking why the presidential candidates are not being solicited for their stance on the issue of the climate change.

Well, maybe this is one reason. Not a very good one, I'm afraid.

I appreciate your comments and your interest. I was sad to see Edwards drop out, in part because a three-way race might lead to a brokered convention, and the drafting of Gore, who seems to be a head above the rest on pretty much every issue (but then, as a non-candidate, he can afford to be). But Edwards was pushing actual talk on issues as well; I just wish the media had bothered to cover this rather than the catfights (real and manufactured) they took such glee in.

As for global warming, I'll try to get in a post about this as well when I get a chance (and see some angle that other more famous blogs haven't gotten to yet).



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