03 March 2014

Democracy Right or Wrong

Thailand, Ukraine, Egypt, and Venezuela are four very different nations in different parts of the world. But over the past couple of years they’ve all been in similar situations in regard to democratic governance.

In all four countries an election has brought a party to power, or confirmed that party in power. Many observers have been wary of those governments because of a combination of corruption, dominance of mass media, or moves against individual rights. However, no one’s made a convincing case that the winning party didn’t actually win most of the citizens’ votes.

In all four countries a large minority of the population, disproportionately middle- and upper-class and disproportionately concentrated around the capital, has opposed that government with massive, ongoing public protests, often becoming violent.

In Venezuela and Thailand, the elected governments have remained in power. In Egypt, the military removed the elected government that had attracted so much opposition, but then imposed its own, even harsher rule.

And in Ukraine the protest centered in Kiev succeeded in toppling the government, but didn’t win over the population in the eastern part of the country. The people there appear to be welcoming military intervention by Russia, in part out of ethnic solidarity and economic interests and in part because the president they elected was just forced out of power by mobs.

These nations therefore present very tough problems for the USA if we want to support democracy around the world. We can look at the Chavez-Maduro government in Venezuela and oppose their authoritarian strains and economic ideology. We could worry about Morsi edging toward theocracy. We can decry the amount of money or luxury that Shinawatra and Yanukovych appeared to accrue as heads of government. But those people were all duly elected, and supporting their overthrow means opposing democracy.

Anyone who talks as if there are easy answers for the Obama administration in Ukraine or any of these other trouble spots hasn’t been paying attention.

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