When a “democratically elected” government makes a mockery of democracy by reneging on its campaign promises or even turning in a diametrically opposite direction, do “we, the people” have a right to descend into the square and overthrow it?
This happened in 1992 in Algeria. The Islamic Salvation Front won a majority in Parliament in a free election. To save the country from an Islamic takeover the election results were annulled.
In Egypt in 2012 the people elected Mohamed Morsi to get rid of a dictator. He immediately started to create a new dictatorship, that of an intolerant Islam. Were the people justified in saying: “We did not vote for this”.
What about Ukraine where President Yanukovich promised a pro-European policy and discarded it once he was in power?
In Venezuela and in Thailand people are gathering in the street to oust elected rulers.
How should “the will of the people” manifest itself? Can people be betrayed but accept it stoically and wait for the next elections because elections are sacred. Our gut reaction goes like this: “Of course, Yanukovich lied, stole and betrayed us and he must go.” Or : “Of course the people have a right to reject a return to barbaric laws, lies, female circumcision, stoning for ‘blasphemy’ or the cutting of a hand for theft.”
We are right to think that way. But we must also consider what other measures must be in place so that such reactions can be avoided in the future and that we do not become addicted to violent solutions. Elections in and by themselves do not create democracies. Before they are held, a framework must be put in place to guarantee their viability and to provide legal recourse. A constitution must be in place to create separation of powers, a free judiciary, the rule of law rather than that of whim or caprice, a free press and protection of minority rights.
I think the reversal of an elected government should be like the right to abortion. It should be allowed but used very rarely and in extreme circumstances only.
I googled the phrase “mob rule” and found the “scientific” word for it. It is Ochlocracy. That is our new word for today. I did not find a word for “square politics”.
I have always thought that raw democracy – that is, majority rule – was not a good thing because it just created an opportunity for the majority to oppress the minority. I have always believed that democracy works when it is tempered by a strong bill of rights that protects minority and human rights. Also, once some one is elected to a top position they have to function in a context of rules and definition of powers; otherwise they can just take all power to themselves after they are elected. We have seen this happen too many times.
Amen to that! Thanks for starting the ball rolling!
Just posting a comment received from another source:
Simone, you are brilliant. I feel like I am receiving an advanced degree education from you on a variety of important topics. Keep those messages coming. I look forward to them.
All the best,