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