ince June 2016, and continuing until September 2017, the ‘democratic’ western nations from Britain to the US, from Holland, to France, to Germany have been awash with election mania. Unfortunately the plethora of elections in the ‘democratic’ western countries and in the US has witnessed the rise of open race hatred, Islamophobia and exclusivity.
In all these countries political parties challenge the incumbent rulers for the right to force regime change via the ballot. And, after all that is one of the issues democracy is all about. Democracy is about the right to challenge and change without fear of repercussions.
Democracy and elections are about the right to freedom and enhancing the rights and freedom of all people in a particular nation or country. They are supposed to be all-inclusive and a means of bringing together diverse communities and groups of a particular country around shared commonalities. In some countries however, elections are held not to enhance people’s freedoms but rather to grab power from the people.
In Sri Lanka this happened in 1982, when the then President of the country held a plebiscite to postpone the holding of general elections –knowing he would lose his majority in parliament. The president claimed he needed the majority to move forward legislation he deemed important for the country. The government of the day won the plebiscite amid blatant election law violation, charges of ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of voters.
In the end, the referendum led to a bloody insurgency in the south of the country which was crushed with extreme brutality, a 3-decade long-Tamil insurgency which reached a bloody climax at the isthmus of Nandhikkadal around a decade ago, and finally to Sri Lanka’s armed forces being charged with crimes against humanity at the United Nations.
More recently, the Turkish republic held a plebiscite to increase the powers of its President at the expense of parliament. Western ‘democracies’ condemned the said plebiscite and described it as an attempted power-grab by the Turkish President in the aftermath of a failed coup-d’etat against his regime.
Just last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for snap elections in Britain. Elections in the UK are not due until 2020 and the PM’s stated aim for calling for early elections is to strengthen her power in parliament to make changes she deems necessary for the British people, especially in the wake of a victory of plebiscite to take Britain out of the European Union (EU) commonly referred to as ‘BREXIT’ held on 23 June 2016.
The plebiscite which saw a victory for those opposed to Britain’s membership in the European Union (EU), was fought mainly on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, and shocked both a large section of the British people themselves, and has been a forerunner for unexpected political change of leadership in the US where a ‘no-hoper’ won a stunning victory campaigning on anti-immigrant, anti Islam fears and calling for exclusivity.
The US, a country largely made up of European migrants is now busy rounding up and deporting mainly persons of Latin American descent whom it describes as illicit immigrants! Police attacks on the black African community have increased and the new regime knowingly or unknowingly preaches and practises Islamophobia.
In Holland, the Dutch general election was widely seen as a litmus test for the strength of anti-immigration populism of Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam, anti-EU ‘Freedom Party’ against Prime Minister, Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD. The recently concluded Austrian presidential election on December 4, 2016, saw a tussle between what the “Sun” newspaper referred to as the EU’s first far-right leader since Hitler - Nobert Hofer - of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) go head-to-head with former Greens Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen who ultimately defeated his rival in a second run-off.
The first round of the French elections which is taking place on Sunday, will be a one-on-one, winner-takes-all contest; the French are electing a president, not a parliament. Though unpredictable, the second round appears to be a struggle between an independent - Emmanuel Macron - against Le Pen canvassing on an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and anti -EU ticket.
In Germany, though, incumbent German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), seems to be unshakeable, but in Germany, the far-right is campaigning on an anti-immigrant ticket - again rousing fear of immigrants. The electoral process in ‘democratic’ western Europe and in the US has unfortunately brought to the forefront divisions among the populace.
Democratic ideals unity, and rule ‘By the People’, ‘For the People’ and ‘Of the People” seem to have fallen by the wayside and limited to text books studied in the ex-colonial states ruled by the ‘democratic’ imperial powers.