Latest update March 27th, 2023 12:59 AM
Feb 01, 2023 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon
Kaieteur News – We can begin by arguing that if the Guyana Government is undemocratic then the person(s) or group(s) putting forward that polemic need to tell us which government around the globe is democratic.
Which CARICOM administration is democratic? Are the Macron and Biden presidencies democratic? In any scholarly exchange on if a ruling party is not democratic there have to be established guidelines or criteria from which you judge behaviour.
A legitimately elected political party can govern unjustly. No academically trained student of politics can be naïve to think that an electoral mandate and democracy are synonymous. The CNN commentator, Fareed Zakaria when he was editor of the scholarly journal, ‘Foreign Affairs” wrote an incisive essay in the journal titled, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” (November/December, 1997).
Zakaria posited that a constitutionally elected group when in power can violate the basic tenets on which democracy rests. Zakaria’s status in the academic world rose tremendously after that essay which he later turned into a book.
Years back using the Zakaria thesis in my work, Ravi Dev engaged me. Dev contended that despite the unpopular policies of a government it is still open to change due to free and fair elections. Dev was right. My attitude to politics after March 2020 underwent a profound metamorphosis that perhaps has changed my position on Guyanese politics permanently.
Despite my countless critiques of the PPP’s rule, it did allow free and fair elections and it lost two -2011 and 2015. The five months of attempted rigging of the 2020 election by the incumbent was a watershed moment for me. What the PPP did in 2011 and 2015 was to open up the terrain of power to contestation. What the incumbent in 2020 attempted to do was to close off the avenues of open electoral challenges.
Zakaria cited Argentina, Peru, Philippines, Bangla Desh, Romania as elected illiberal regimes. But Dev point stood out – these regimes can be changed by electoral competition. All the countries Zakaria named later down the years had change of government through elections.
This puts Modi in India in the spotlight. I believe Modi is practicing illiberal democracy but he can lose the next election if the Congress Party starts from now to do its homework.
In 2020, the PPP successfully survived the five months of election rigging through the support of important governments and powerful inter-governmental institutions throughout the world.
Come August this year, the Ali presidency will achieve three years in office. Has it met the criteria of democratic and liberal constitutionalism? If it hasn’t then which among the criteria we use to judge democracy it failed to adhere to?
In researching materials for this column, I went through Google searches for criticism that the Ali presidency is not democratic. From September 2020 with the politically instigated violence in Region 5 over claims that the death of two African youths to January 2023, the opposition parties, civil society entities and the media have sermonized that the Ali presidency is not democratic.
But the polemical displays do not meet the criterion of evidential judgement. What I have argued on this page since March 2020 is that instead of a creeping illiberal government, we have a creeping intolerance among the opposition, civil society and the media. I went so far to do a column on this process. See my Tuesday, May 17 column of 2022, titled; “A creeping dictatorship since August 2020: The political nouveau lumpen.”
Here is one example of the failure to cite evidence of the Ali presidency being undemocratic. Ms. Isabelle DeCaires, majority shareholder of the Stabroek News described Guyana as a country without a functioning democracy. She rested her judgement on the way the government shaped the natural resource fund legislation. For a reply to Ms. DeCaires see my article of Thursday, February 10, 2022 captioned, “Does Ms. Isabelle DeCaires know what sustains a functional democracy?”
Is Guyana a dysfunctional democracy because Ms. DeCaires is right about the legislation? But an international expert on sovereign wealth funds of oil producing countries who never came to Guyana and has no connection with the PPP saw the Guyana legislation as one of the best for safeguarding natural resource funds for oil economies.
Please see my column of Thursday, February 3, 2022, titled, ‘Civil society forgot about Andrew Bauer. Why?’ on what that expert had to say about our sovereign wealth fund. Space has run out for us to elaborate on the standards by which you judge a government as being undemocratic. I conclude with my own opinion for now. I do not accept the Ali presidency as undemocratic. In a later column, I will look the standards by which you judge democratic governance.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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