The Illusion of Democracy
In bitter cold of Serbia’s October, tens of thousands of defiant, men and women take to streets in protest. In unison they roar “He is finished.” They capture parliament building in a show of defiance. Outnumbered, police relinquish power to mob, standing idly by as young men and women storm building. Before long, millions of uncounted ballots from rigged elections are thrown down to people. They shower jubilant crowd like bursts of confetti. It is end of Slobodan Milosovec’s self-imposed tyrannical reign as president. It is dawn of democracy.
October, 2002— It is that exhilarating time of year—election time. Two years have passed since Serbian people’s non-violent resistance and country’s induction into free world. For a country that had fearlessly united with fire and fervor in face of a tyrant and demanded dignity, and had become a testament to oppressed of world—this was a time millions stilled to watch. What they would see this year would shock their very belief in promise of democracy. Voter turnout in Serbia is so low that elections are declared invalid.
In a related but completely dissimilar story in another part of world, one country holds a fairy-tale election with astoundingly perfect results. The citizens of this “utopia” would never miss an opportunity to vote for their beloved ruler. With adoration, and for some literally with their blood, millions of voters cast their ballots for man who evidently provides them with comforts worthy of such a show of appreciation. The man: Saddam Hussein.
Unquestionably, this most beloved of rulers is first ever to win one hundred percent of a country’s vote, making him ruler for another seven years. There are over eleven million eligible voters and every one of them voted for Saddam that day. The sick, limping, old, frail—all came. Saddam’s people insist vote was fair and accurate. Saddam Hussein was only candidate.
Without resorting to speculation, could it be that perhaps his being only contender played a role in his receiving one hundred percent of vote? It’s a far cry, but it just might be true. The Third Wave?
This is a bad time for democracy. It has shown us some of most absurd and unjust elections. So what has happened to “Third Wave?” The one political scientists and analysts have boasted about since fall of communism. The Third Wave of democratization that sweeps through world replacing oppression and tyranny with truth and justice. If anything, results of these absurd elections point to a new phenomenon—a wave of “half-done” democracy that is hurriedly being implemented without necessary foundations in place.
Increasingly, it seems that countries that so avidly promote democracy somehow expect it to exist in a vacuum. What results is a highly skeptical and distrustful population, driven to voting booths out of despondency or, as in case of Iraq, out of fear. But this is not true democracy; this is not true participation—the Third Wave so far is nothing more than an illusion.
Picture Robert Mugabe in his presidential palace talking defiantly to American ambassador on telephone: “No, we do not need American election monitors. Zimbabwe’s elections are free and fair. We don’t need advice from a country that can’t run its own elections.” He refers to Bush and Gore mess of 2000.
After episodes of political violence and intimidation, and after press and media has been stifled and silenced, Zimbabwe’s elections take place. Concern is expressed over mass arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and cruel and inhuman treatment by Mugabe’s men. The lack of transparency and accountability, coupled with prevention of thousands of opposition supporters from voting, wins Mugabe a comfortable victory. The international community is as always—outraged.