• Friday, Sep 17, 2021
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OP-ED: The other face of democracy

  • Published at 01:59 am January 17th, 2021
US Capitol protest
REUTERS

Discord is easy to spread, mending the discord is another matter

Democracy is almost non-existent in China and Russia. There are garbs of it through assemblies such as “The People’s Congress,” that supposedly is a chamber of people’s representatives. Such assemblies have never known to have opposed any resolutions proposed by the all-powerful head of state. 

China has changed its rules to allow Xi Jinping the luxury of continuing as president for as long as he desires. Vladimir Putin has, likewise, ensured that he too can do the same. These are described by political scientists as “authoritarianism,” meaning that one person’s whims decide state policy. 

Those that run along with such regimes do so because they have to and make something on the side. China is now spreading its wings to impose on Hong Kong a similar type of rule. Pro-democracy activists that filled the streets in their demands last year, are now either fleeing the country, going underground, or getting arrested. 

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is being as loyal as she can to the Chinese. By 2041, the territory, long ruled by the British, will be taken over in any case under a treaty agreed to by the UK and China, resulting in Britain relinquishing its control of the tiny nation. That the Chinese are advancing the deadline has a lot to do with its strategic geo-political ambitions. That the same threatens to rip apart the social fabric of the country, guaranteed by the treaty, is of little consequence. 

The Chinese and Russians are used to such a way of life and any dissension is brutally put down.

Both countries have been fairly muted in reacting to the events that have unfolded in the US and over Brexit. Russian elements influenced the 2016 elections that brought Donald Trump to power. Investigations have never been made public, but due to the media, several key figures were named as part of something bigger. 

Some of them have sought and obtained pardons in the waning days of Trump suggesting that the truth will probably not be unearthed. There’s no secret that Russia is still smarting over the shrewd success of the US in dismantling the Soviet Union courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev who now lives securely and safely in the US. During Trump’s regime, he knuckled down on NATO, one of Russia’s biggest concerns, avoided any major difference of opinion, and began a trade war with China. Yet, even with the pandemic, China has bounced back to growth while the food bank lines grow in the US. 

More people in the UK today would stay in the EU if they had a chance to. They hem and haw over the narrow referendum results of four years ago that tipped the scales. Boris Johnson is enthusiastic in forecasting a great future for the UK. Businesses don’t share that optimism.

China prepared well. They bought up European debts, expanded horizons in Africa, pushed ahead with BRI and now an ambitious trade deal with Asean countries. Their new economic agenda focuses on becoming self-sufficient in technology, meaning more internal jobs and improved lifestyles for their citizens. Democracy has no part in all of this. Time will tell if this type of authoritarianism will prevail. 

It all depends on what pans out in the US. With a few days to Biden’s inauguration, Washington DC resembles a “green zone” similar to that in Iraq. Intelligence agencies are looking for more than just spontaneous reaction of those that stormed and ravaged Capitol Hill. For now, more National Guard have been deployed just for Washington than in any other country where the US has boots on the ground. The general public have been told not to come to the inauguration.

What happened on January 6 has left most flabbergasted. President Trump’s words to a group shortly before the attack on Capitol Hill even as it was in session have led to his impeachment that was supported by 10 Republicans. For it to pass in Senate will require another eight. But these are procedural fixes to what is now a much bigger problem. 

White supremacist trends have always been present in the US. So has racism. The presidential elections have clearly shown that far from a blue wave, the race was a tight one. Biden prevailed by over 8 million votes. The fact that over 70 million reposed their faith in Trump in spite of the dithering Covid response, is very revealing. 

The swing-state vote was the crux of Trump saying the election was “stolen.” His arguments lost in 60 out of 61 court challenges. According to the media, these allegations were based on no evidence. Yet, even those Republicans that supported first that the Electoral College votes be suspended pending a commission audit, and then those that voted against the impeachment, sounded hollow in their reasoning. 

There was nothing compelling in the speeches in hallowed halls that had witnessed profound parliamentary, congressional, and senate debates. Profundity was missing, as was sheer logic. The common theme of “healing,” “uniting a divided nation,” and tackling the pandemic are lame excuses to offer in response to judgement over a president’s open support for an insurrection. 

If the Republicans hadn’t realized the obvious divide in the US, they must have been living in another world. It is another nail in the coffin of legislators too far removed from the electorate, too heavily immersed in the cloak and dagger arena of lobbyists and power-mongering. When they selected Trump in 2016, they overlooked that he had never been engaged in politics, never been a congressman or a senator. Businessmen, however successful, don’t make good political leaders. That the opposite is also true doesn’t need to be said. 

Boris Johnson is an example. Narendra Modi is another. Discord is easy to spread and translates easily into votes. Mending the discord is another matter altogether.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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