Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why democracy is always the best way

In Tunisia the ruling Islamic Ennahda Party has been defeated by its secularist Nidaa Tounes opponent in parliamentary elections.

 In Brazil, incumbent President Dilma Rouseff held on by the skin of her teeth against a right-of-centre opponent and in Ukraine a coalition of pro-European parties will hold a substantial parliamentary majority in an election in which separatists in the east of the country chose to play no part.

While the results will generally be considered good news in Western capitals, the most significant winner is democracy itself. The outcomes have not been challenged; the will of the people in three countries has been respected.

These elections were held when the concept of democracy itself is under more challenge than at any time since the end of the Cold War: Elected Governments in Iraq and Afghanistan battle Islamic insurgents who want nothing to do with one-person-one-vote; in Russia, democratic freedoms are being steadily undermined in what is fast becoming a State regressing into a mixture of Soviet/Tsarist authoritarianism.

China, which has never known democracy (except possibly of a very limited kind in the early years of the last century) aggressively advocates its style of Government as best for nations in the developing world.

It points to the legislative logjam caused by the United States’ admittedly complicated system of checks and balances, even to the recent disturbances in Hong Kong – which it authored by its refusal to allow true democracy there – as the ‘dangers’ of extending political power beyond a small ruling clique.

Even in Australia which as a nation has known no other form of government, democracy has its detractors. In a recent article Ian Marsh of the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, bemoaned the country’s “failing democracy”.

“The recent record is of a system that is largely gridlocked. Short of crisis, political leaders are trapped in a short-term cage,” he writes.

It cannot be argued that Governments the world over are facing momentous change, largely brought about by a technical revolution that allows instant communication of ideas and philosophies that in the past might have taken decades to mature and develop.

But what system is best suited to adapt to these changes – in China where ideas that do not accord with the rulers are censored and their proponents persecuted and jailed? In North Korea where anyone who steps out of line simply ‘disappears’? In Russia where opposition journalists are harassed and murdered?

Or in democracies were differences, often fundamental and sometimes violent differences, are there for all to see and the people and their leaders strive to find answers in the full light of day?

Ballot boxes and voting booths do not solve problems in themselves, but they are the places where solutions can start to be found. The way forward may be slow and frustrating, but in the end it is always the best way.

They know that in Brasilia, in Kiev and in Tunis. They should be an example to us all.








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