Democratic elections (blah, blah!)

global political handshake

When will we all shake hands – democratic ‘rulers’ and democratically ‘ruled’?

I’ve noticed over the past few weeks how many times national events or strategic decisions have been accused of being related to forthcoming elections in that country. Almost invariably, the accusations are raised by ‘the opposition’ party or parties, and are equally denied as opportunism by the party currently in power.

A former boss of mine used to famously declare that the British got their one chance of democracy every five years – i.e., whenever there was a general, parliamentary election (but never one at work!). This, in the so-called ‘mother of parliaments’.

Even that claim is disputed. Which is the world’s oldest-established democracy? Recently, a UK newspaper mentioned, in passing, that the (now) USA was “the world’s oldest democracy”. Check it out online, and you’ll find there’s no consensus – it all depends on how you define the very term ‘democracy’.

This combination of observations gave me a simple idea: to take a brief look at what’s going on these days, in terms of forthcoming, so-called democratic elections and recent political actions.

Bulgaria

Just as a teaser: Bulgaria will suffer this ‘X’ process again in the early summer of 2013. Already, politicians of all ‘colours’ are either supporting or – more usually – criticising new policies, statements and promises of the ruling (note: everyone in the media here labels them the ‘ruling’), GERB party, currently led by PM Borisov.

GERB recently announced, for example, that they would increase pensions, not significantly raised since 2009 (the year they happened to come into power), to compensate for inflation during that period until now. The result: predictable – pre-election populism! It doesn’t help that GERB is dumb enough to have failed to agree publicly, among the involved ministries, exactly when in 2013 these increases will be applied, such is their continual idiocy in mistreating (or disdaining) their expected faithful electorate. (True? False? Will GERB deliver? At what cost to everyone?)

USA

Moving abroad: Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, recently announced measures whereby the bank:

“would spend $40 billion each month buying mortgage bonds until the economy strengthens, and maybe even after. In its two previous programmes, called quantitative easing (QE 1, 2), the Federal Reserve bought $2 trillion worth of Treasury and mortgage bonds.

The idea is (apparently) to frustrate holders of conservative assets, so that they will have no choice but to shift money into riskier fare. As they do, prices will rise, making people richer and willing to spend more money. And that, at least in theory, will speed economic growth.”[1]

The Obama-bashers jumped straight on this, despite the recent gaffes of Romney, Republican opponent, who was revealed as stating he didn’t care about 47% of the American population, who were, dismissively, according to him, dependent on a culture of welfare.  Bernanke was an economic aide to Obama, so this is pure political, not economic, opportunism in favour of the incumbent president of the USA. Right? Wrong? True? False?

Georgia

Let’s shift to Georgia (no, not the US state). Presidential elections in October, 2012. What happens this week? Video of alleged systematic, brutal and organised abuse of prisoners in Georgian jails.

“TBILISI (Reuters) – Hundreds of people rallied in Georgia on Friday in a fourth day of protests over brutality in state prisons, a bout of unrest that could damage prospects for President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party to come out on top in elections on October 1 [2012].

The protests, which broke out after two television channels that back Saakashvili’s opponents showed footage of prison abuses, have saddled him with an unexpectedly tough election battle against a coalition led by a billionaire businessman.”[2] True (T)? False (F)?

(There will be more about this interesting opposition ‘billionaire businessman’ in my short series of related items.)

Romania

And, for raw political opportunism, look north across the Danube to Romania, where there’s been cut-throat duelling all year between PM Victor Ponta and President Traian Basescu.

Again, never mind who’s right, who’s wrong (it’s the usual mixed story, it seems to me). But, significantly, the PM keeps bleating that his statements have been “misunderstood” by everyone – those Romanians who don’t support him, and even the EU and EC, where he’s been roundly condemned for allegedly bringing democracy into disrepute, charges he has, of course, denied (‘nobody understands me!’, he constantly wails). Misunderstood? With an illegal referendum packed under his belt, one intended to impeach the president (for whom I have no sympathetic leanings, by the way).

While pulling like a Romanian coal miner on the levers of domestic constitutional powers enough to alarm that wonderfully democratic institution, the European Commission, led by a certain J. M. Barroso? T? F?

Turkey (addition)

Today, Turkish courts jailed hundreds of military officers for an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the government, back in 2003. Three former generals were given (nominal) life sentences of 20 years, and a further 323 accused (who all declared innocence of the charges) were handed sentences of 18 years.

All were accused of conspiring to overthrow the Islamic-leaning government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. (Fundamental and open question: Islamic-leaning / democratic? Turkey apparently still says it wants to join the EU  despite its already-defined ’democratic’ views and tenets.T? F? Right (R)? Wrong (W)?

The European democratic institutions

Finally, the EC itself. A few days ago, Barroso attempted to define his desire for European unity, not as a federation of states, but as a compromise – in my terms – between national sovereignty and the overall interests of the ‘bloc’ (does that word resound from the Cold War, or am I just getting old?). The same day, I read a brief report that European ministers were again proposing a pan-European army, with defences of the outer EU border. T? F? R? W?

It goes on, and on, I slowly realised. So,to come, a few more detailed examples of what I mean… without even expanding y chosen examples and simplistic thesis as far as the ongoing demonstrations and continued deaths and injuries caused by Islamic reaction to that stupid “freedom of speech” video – supported by a US judge. I wondered, watching TV tonight, how many protesters worldwide had actually seen the offending item – I haven’t, and shan’t bother.

The more I think and read about democracy, the more I believe it to be a convenient and misleading coinage and borrowing (Ancient Greece, the first democracy – how is that relevant today, politically?) that suits rulers wearing different-coloured ‘suits’ to fool most of the people, most of the time.

But, an alternative to this convenient, ‘liberal’ label? Isn’t it about time we threw off the shackles of capitalism, socialism, religion(ism), consumerism, and tried – just tried – to find some systems more attuned to our real common needs in a new, globalised era (forget geography, and the old-fashioned, usually divisive, ideas of national boundaries associated with C18/19 countries and nation-states, from which we seem doomed never to recover)?

Not in my time, I sadly suppose… T?F?R?W?

***********

(You should have seen the trouble I had in order to select what I considered a fairly open, acceptable online illustration of ‘international handshake’ to illustrate this item!)

[1]: The Economic Times

[2]: Reuters

Image source: worldserviceslax.org

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