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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Elections and Democracy

By 史蒂夫・奥托
A question has arisen in one of my comments on the establishment of elections. Does that make a democracy?
On the question of US elections, we have two parties. The press, the Electoral College and the two ruling parties have all collaborated to insure that Republicans and Democrats are the only ones to be taken seriously. The Libertarian Party has had presidential candidates on the ballet in every state for several elections and they get no press coverage at all. On various levels (national, state, local) the press has paid the most attention to the candidate who spends the most money. The money comes from special interest groups, the majority of which are corporations. Anti-abortion groups, environmentalists, and other special interest groups make up a very small percentage of the campaign contributions politicians get to run for office. This means that the corporations get most of a congress person’s attention. The campaign contributions are protected by our constitution even though they amount to a legal form of bribery.
Add to that, new savvy advertising gimmicks to “spin” a candidate’s record to misrepresent the facts, and our elections become a joke. The joke is on the voter who seriously hopes that the person voted for will head that person’s concerns. That doesn’t happen when a candidate is in dept to a lobbyist who financed his/her campaign. The candidate uses TV ads with short sound bites and witty one-liners to persuade the voter using very few details on his/her policies. A few hot-button issues, such as abortion, are used to reach a voter’s emotional feelings. It all ads up to manipulation.
In foreign affairs elections are even more useless. The US government uses the military as a veto of elected heads of state not in line with its agenda. Salvador Allende, of Chile, Jacobo Arbenz, of Guatemala, Mohammed Mosaddeq (محمد مصدق‎), of Iran were all elected heads of state who were overthrown in a CIA directed military coup. This was because they wouldn’t support US business interests. Since these elections can be vetoed by a CIA coup, elections in these countries don’t mean much.
There are also the elections the US has set up in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no way a true opposition leader can win an election with troops and US politicians deciding which political groups are allowed to take part in the elections. President George Bush banned the Bath Party and others he considered “pro-terrorist.” That begs the question –what is it they are actually deciding?
It is also outright absurd to insist that the US can “give a country democracy.” Since self determination comes from the self, it can not come from some one else’s self. These elections are a farce for both the Iraqis and the Afghanis.
As a Marxist I work for a system that is both socialism and democratic, The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has established a republic with a multi-party system. There are those Maoists who insist on a single party to liberate the masses fully. That may work in some counties, were the size and culture is suited to such a system. Many countries, including the US and, as Prime Minister Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) has insisted, Nepal must have a multi-party system.
While I disagree on the single party state, I do agree with the argument that elections do not guarantee democracy. They can just as easily be used to manipulate the public. That is what we have in the US today and in the “new democratic” puppet governments the US has set up in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If elections are completely open and allow all parties to take part in, and they get equal coverage from the press, that would be closer to a true democracy. In smaller countries as Nepal, the rebel armies must be integrated into the former military to prevent coups fostered by imperialist powers. This has been done in El Salvador to some extent and Nicaragua. There is still outside and inside contradictions that may prevent real socialism from emerging. That is why it is important not to confuse democracy with elections. Elections can be a part of a democracy, but they can also be a form of manipulation by the powers-to-be to gain a false sense of approval.


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