Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Democracy, Made to Order?

From Arab News

19 December 2006

most British politicians, Tony Blair is a proud member of the British
House of Commons, the mother of parliamentary democracy. Thus when a
legislator like Blair speaks on democracy, as on his current Middle
East peace mission, he deserves a respectful hearing. He has called for
new elections in Palestine. He says the government Palestinians elected
January has failed because a basic plank of its policy is that it is
not currently prepared to recognize the state of Israel. Because the
Hamas government would not renounce violence against Israel, the
“international community” led by Blair’s friend George Bush, has
mounted an economic and political blockade against the Palestinian
administration. The result has been widespread economic and social
disruption that has ratcheted up Hamas-Fatah rivalry so that Palestine
seems now on the brink of civil war.

The only way out of this
conflict, out of this threatening impasse says Blair, who as a child of
the mother of parliamentary democracy should know more about the
democratic process than most world politicians, is a fresh general

Those who would learn from the wisdom and experience of
the British prime minister may well want to ask him one important
question. What will happen if in another free and fair election, the
Palestinian people once again choose Hamas to be their government?
Presumably, his and Bush’s international community will accept the
electoral verdict if it falls in favor of Fatah. We in the Middle East,
who are so unversed in the matter of democracy, may not be able to
appreciate the subtle difference that would allow Washington and London
to however reject the choice of the Palestinians if it is once again

Just supposing that Hamas won a second time. Would that,
by some complex formula of democracy that we clearly do not understand,
mean that the world’s capitals would finally accept the outcome? If so,
why was their choice not good enough the first time? Or will
Palestinians be forced to go to the polls for a third vote, to see if
they can make a different decision?

In his busy schedule as an
important international statesman, Blair has not yet had time to
explain how a free election, designed to produce a government that
reflects the views of the largest group of a country’s citizens, can
somehow nevertheless be invalid. If, for instance, the international
community had felt that Blair’s May 2005 election victory with just 35
percent of the vote was invalid, because of his unwavering support for
US aggression in Iraq, would world statesmen have been right to have
backed a call by the British opposition Conservatives and Liberal
Democrats (with 54 percent of the vote between them) to run the
election again?

Or, then again, should Blair, as a democratic
champion, have demanded a completely fresh US 2000 presidential
election after the Miami-Dade County voting machine scandal let George
W. Bush into the White House? If he had, at the very least, it would
have saved at least 600,000 Iraqi lives. But he did not. Why?


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