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#BTEditorial – Good democratic examples dwindling


The idea that good will always prevail over evil is constantly being challenged and the current state of politics in many countries reminds us that we should not take our democratic freedoms for granted.

Certainly, many Americans would have rejected out of hand any suggestion that they were not the gold standard for democracy. However, the term of the last president and the fact that he refused to this day to publicly concede he was defeated in a free and fair election in 2020, gives us reason to pause.

We in the Caribbean, with all our governance faults and political shortcomings, were shocked at the brazen January 6, 2021, attempted coup by followers of the former United States President.

If our readers can imagine such a scenario, it was the equivalent of marauding supporters from either party headquarters in Roebuck Street or George Street, making their way to Government House, insisting that the winner of the general election not be sworn in by President Dame Sandra Mason.

Yes, we know that such a scenario makes for a total nightmare, however, it occurred in the mighty United States; in the centre of democracy and it played out right before the eyes of the world.

Nearing the end of 2021, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, in its report on the Global State of Democracy, warned us that democracy suffered several blows to its standing.

Many countries introduced Emergency Laws that severely restricted the rights of citizens, as governments attempted to bring the COVID-19 pandemic and its debilitating effects under control.

We in Barbados, are still operating under emergency laws which remain in place for several more months, even though we have been advised that COVID-19 will be part of our existence from here on.

Earlier this month Minister of Health Ian Gooding Edghill piloted a resolution in Parliament extending our State of Emergency under the Emergency Management Act until September 22.

“Even though we continue to relax measures as we continue to manage this pandemic, I want to give the House the assurance that this resolution that is before us which will extend the State of Emergency until September 22 is something that we have to do because we are uncertain what will happen out there,” the Health Minister Pointed out.

We have no reason to fear that our democratic freedoms are under threat and the state of emergency is not exclusively for the protection of the health of citizens and preservation of our economy.

One publication assessed that there have been many cases of “democratic backsliding” in countries such as the United States of America, Brazil, and Hungary.

According to the report on the Global State of Democracy, “. . . the violently contested elections in the United States—and the simultaneous emergence of credible alternative models of governance, and we have the equivalent of a witches’ brew for the global health of democracy. The pandemic has simply made that brew thicker and more poisonous.”

Why must we closely monitor what is happening in the US? Some political leaders may be minded to use the Trump template to remain in power longer than their electorate desires.

In fact, what the ongoing US political fight has taught us, is that the levers and apparatus of Government can be used against the citizens and also used to neuter opposition forces.

“Former President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results in the United States. Baseless allegations of electoral fraud and related disinformation undermined fundamental trust in the electoral process, which culminated in the storming of the US Capitol building in January 2021,” the report said of the United States.

There have been no published studies on how Barbadians or our neighbours in the region, feel about their democracy. Some may argue that the outcome of the last two polls suggest Barbadians are more than pleased.

Others may contend there is growing apathy and disinterest among our citizens to which we ought to pay attention.

The Brookings Institute, in a study of the subject in the United States, said Americans distinguish sharply between democracy in principle and democracy in practice.

It argued that there was near universal agreement that the current system was not working well and was not delivering the results that people want.

But what is most troubling is the fact that one in five Americans had views that make them, at least open to, if not outright supportive of authoritarianism.

While we can, from the safety of a democratic system, romanticize about authoritarianism, it is a whole different kettle of fish to live every day under authoritarian rule.

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Written by Politixia

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