What Helps Emerging Democracies Safeguard Against Threats to Democratic Gains?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
July 3, 2008
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On the Fourth of July, the American people celebrate their independence and democratic traditions. Many observers have credited the U.S. Constitution with providing the country a framework for enduring success. In 1974, about 30 countries were considered democratic. Today, more than 115 countries are democracies.

What helps emerging democracies safeguard against threats to democratic gains?

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Comments

Klint
|
District Of Columbia, USA
July 5, 2008

Klint in Washington writes:

The following is what I believe are needed for any democracy, emerging or emerged, for the continued safeguard against what has been gained and is gained through democracy. It's 7 pages long and if it gets cut off due to its length. A copy can be found here
http://blath.com/bbs/index.php?topic=204.0

alas I did not know there was a limit of 5000 characters, my essay is about 21,300 I think. So here is a quick summary.

1. A True and Proper democracy requires an accountable government. But the people of such nation are equally accountable in how their govt. is formed and what it does. The relationship of Citizens/Govt is not one of master/slave but one of continual cycle of interaction between citizens and fellow citizens they have entrusted to do service for the sake of everyone in the nation. Everyone is accountable in a democracy.
2. The top strength of any democracy is education of its people. Ability to read, and most importantly comprehend things and communicate things back. Are what is extremely important, for a nation is useless if its own citizens can not understand a govt. function so as to pick a qualified individual(s) to help manage and lead it. An educated population can work to understand a situation, try to implement justice and definitely utilize and work with help when it is offered.
3. A democracy needs to have free speech and allow free accountable (as is not fraudulent) press.
4. Part of the functions of a proper govt. is stopping corruption, preventing conflict of interests, being accountable, and seeking to improve ways of serving its nation.
5. Regulated Capitalism is a must as it provides an additional freedom and opportunity for a nation's citizenship. Regulations must insure a fair competitive marketplace that also doesn't hurt the public health or interest.
6. Private property must be respected. Laws should exist to allow govs to do the job in terms of imminent domain but allow a fair process in the previous owner's favor if the project gets canceled, in returning said property. A govt. should not take a property and than profit by it due to canceling a project and selling the land to the highest bidder.
7. Besides vigilance against corruption from within, and being able to rely on other true democracies to help. Strength needs to be built up so as to protect and account for itself, provide justice and well being to the nation and also to lend a hand in protecting others. For I believe it is a vile hypocrisy for a true democracy to do nothing when others are being enslaved and innocents hurt.

And I'm so tired. I've been typing for hours. Thank you for the opportunity in sharing thoughts on the issue and best wishes to all who wish to prosper in the partnership of democracy.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 5, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"What helps emerging democracies safeguard against threats to democratic gains?"

The public's will to speak out and stand up for their rights to be free, and hold their leaders accountable under the law.

Otherwise the people may very well find it appropriate to ask themselves, " Are we to be as sheep?" in the face of threats, whether foreign or domestic in nature.

What is interesting is the parallel rise of democracies and personal communication technology. Give the people the tools to give themselves greater voice in the matter, and they will excercise their will upon their governments. Whether democratic in nature or not.

A perfect example is taking place right now in China as the public outcry against corruption in government is all over the internet. Despite the Chinese government's attempts to censure and block the views of the Chinese people.

"Thomas Jefferson understood that these rights do not belong to Americans alone. They belong to all mankind. And he looked to the day when all people could secure them. On the 50th anniversary of America's independence, Thomas Jefferson passed away. But before leaving this world, he explained that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were universal. In one of the final letters of his life, he wrote, "May it be to the world, what I believe it will be -- to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all -- the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."
- G W Bush, July 4, 2008
Zharkov
|
United States
July 7, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

A proper education of the public about the existence of natural rights or what some call "human rights" is the most important defense to protect democracy. In many countries, socialist doctrine has replaced a classic education in democratic principles and fundamental rights.

When citizens believe their rights originate from and are protected only by their leader, their government, the U.N., or some version of global feudalism, they are doomed.

Natural rights, or fundamental rights, presume that the citizen is innocent until proven guilty and that if a thing is not expressly prohibited by law, it is permitted.

The Doctrine of Fundamental Rights assert freedom is inherent in all people as a part of human nature and not some kind of favor granted by government employees.

Citizens must be taught that they, as individuals, are the last defenders of their rights. If they remain silent in the face of infringement of these rights, they may lose them forever. They should be taught about the concept of natural rights and learn the danger signals that warn when these rights are about to be curtailed. The primary reason why America has a 2nd Amendment was to allow individual citizens to keep and bear arms in self-defense of their natural rights. America's constitution contained at its creation a partial list of natural rights inherent in the people, not as a source of those rights, but as a limit to government infringement of those rights, all of which pre-existed the writing of the constitution.

Despite advanced technology, militarized police forces, and government intrusion into private databases, an educated, armed population remains the first defense against threats to liberty.

The great threat to tyranny is privacy. When tyrants can know everything, the people are in danger. Jews learned this in Germany during the Nazi government. Had the Nazi government been unable to identify jews from non-jews, the Holocaust could never have happened. Liberty and privacy are two sides of the same democratic coin.

Dennis
|
Wisconsin, USA
July 7, 2008

Dennis in Wisconsin writes:

Of all the posts so far, I find it interesting that none mention the ballot. Neither one-man-one-vote, nor secret, nor universal. Democracy here is not defined by voting. Instead are the notions of information, education, governmental transparencv/accountability, and privacy.

While I cannot point out a living example, it is conceivable that an autocracy may be the forerunner of a society's democritization. (Maybe our US experience under white-male-slave-owning oligarchy qualifies.) As long as there is institutionalized the rule of law and the freedom of information and private property, then democracy is off to a sure-footed start and can be maintained for the long-distance run.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 8, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

The premise of the question presumes voting occurs by describing a democracy as "emerging". If there was no right to vote, there would be no democratic elections and hence, no democracy. Although it is possible to have a voting monarchy as there are numerous examples of that in Europe, it could not be said that democracy was "emerging" as long as hereditary rule persisted. In my view, most European monarchs wish to retain their "royal" status and allow sufficient voting merely to contain dissent. In that regard they are neither democratic nor "emerging".

Dennis
|
Wisconsin, USA
July 8, 2008

Dennis in Wisconsin writes:

"What helps emerging democracies safeguard against threats to democratic gains?" is the question at hand. "Emerging" presumes foresight and hope. Foresight and hope are used in the context of democracy as the default for organizing a nation-sized body of people into a state. Democracy is the model for today.

But democracy is rarely defined as all citizens voting or approving each governmental action or policy. Democracies in this day and age are representative republics. Democracies are not dictatorships of the majority. Democracies revere the dignity and place of minorities in the society.

The USA was, and I dare say still is, an emerging democracy. Ours is a going concern, a successful enterprise. And it can be traced in some of its primal concerns all the way back to the Magna Charta in 1215 --the notion of constitutional law, the rule of law. This is rudimentary to democracy.

It is not clear what is meant by a "voting monarchy." Perhaps constitutional monarchy is meant. At any rate there is no relevance of European hereditary monarchy to the question at hand. Recently Nepal overthrew its monarchy, and that seemed to be no-contest. The question for Nepalese is how to reconstitute themselves, ethnically homogeneous, into a political entity that takes into account Maoists and parliamentarians. (Parliamentarians: I am at a loss to name the non-Maoists.) Nepal is an emerging democracy.

Today's world sees democracies emerging, or, it is hoped that they emerge, in Africa. This is a continent seasoned by colonization. No hereditary monarchies. Western European colonizers at a loss on being ousted could only offer what they still had --a political system that involved citizens. Zimbabwe emerged from being named Southern Rhodesia as a democracy, for one example, only to wilt under Robert Mugabe. Elections have no bearing on the government. The rule of law is not acknowledged by the autocrat. But there is an opposition. Zimbabwe is an emerging democracy.

In the Middle East the various emirates model the dust-binned European monarchs. The clamor there is not for election of the emir. The clamor is for free flow of information. Education is seen as valuable for democratization. Let me say, I will say,that the Middle East harbors emerging democracies.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 8, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

There are interesting contradictions in US policy.

One interesting contradiction is, why representative democracy is so important to bring to the weaker nations of the Middle East and Africa, but not for Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other kingdoms where the ultimate power of royalty is exercised by mere informal suggestion to their ministers and parliaments?

Our DoS spends countless hours criticizing the Czar-less, Prince-less, Russian style of democracy, but never criticize Queens, Kings, and Princes of Europe and Arabia?

Is monarchy acceptable as long as their people are pacified? Do not "royal subjects" deserve the same self-determination and liberty as in other lands?

Are some elites more acceptable than others, or is it only a question of relative wealth? Do the wealthier monarchs belong to the right societies or wear the right cloaks and crowns?

Robert
|
California, USA
July 9, 2008

Robert in California writes:

FREEDOM of SPEECH without reprisal.

Let's look at China. I travel and do business within the Chinese borders more than the average American person. The Chinese people tell me how wonderful there country is, which has progressed immensely when they open their borders to TRADE. However with free-trade (capitalism) comes the problem of free-voice which in it self, heavily contradicts the philosphy of China's political-power. It's system is there to protect itself and not it's people. The real power is Freedom of Speech. I do see a remarkable change and a loosening of press releases at the sacrafice of many brave Chinese reporters,bloggers,and average Chinese citizens. I have witnessed a brave young lady with a knife at her throat protesting the forced acceptance of a buyout of many elderly persons apartments for a local developer at an unreasonable price. It was a huge traffic stopper in Shanghai with the Army, Police, and other govt agency's trying to persuade her to drop the knife...yet absolutely no coverage on the local news stations that evening. Thank God for the few who stood-up during the years before and after 1776. We should be kissing their grave sites! I hope Hu Jinatao is listening to his citzens and hopefully he has a plan to continue the change that is happening in China....although noted.... at a snails pace.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 9, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

One might pick any aspect of American liberty and point to it as essential to emerging democracy. Private property ownership is the foundation of American democracy and protecting private property was the primary function of the colonial government in America.

Initially, only private property owners were allowed to vote because they had a financial stake in the outcome of an election. The wisdom necessary to acquire property was considered a valuable asset in governing. In Britain, land holdings were "freeholds" given by the king in exchange for military service and the ownership was absolute. Over time, payments of money began to replace military service for elderly freeholders no longer fit to go into battle.

Some monarchs, particularly the Stuarts, took property they found desirable and rarely paid the former owners for their loss. More likely, the former owner would be sent to prison on trumped-up charges so that the king could enjoy his land without conflict. From this undesirable aspect of feudalism, the concept of eminent domain evolved, so that today, governments can step into the shoes of the king and forcibly take land they find desirable, provided they pay for it. In that respect, America remains an emerging democracy not too far removed from a feudal past.

Private property rights protected from government taking, by law, probably is the foundation for holding onto democracy. Land ownership gives citizens a reason to want the right to vote and a stake in the outcome of elections.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 9, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

The question begs definition of the nature of threats to democratic process in general.

What may be defined as "helpful" to address them, as well as what is required to "safeguard" the road to democratic governance.

As well, the parameters of "emerging" tends to be broad and somewhat left to interpretation, rather than the measured observation of movement towards and into "larger freedom" as defined under the UN charter.

"Evolving" might have more precise.

When it comes right down to it, this discussion centers around "Darwin's theory of political evolution."

Whereby only the fitest system of governance will survive.

As Churchill once eloquently remarked, "Democracy is the worst form of government ever invented, save all other forms."

In other words, we're stuck with it until we figure out something that better serves the people.

I'm in no hurry.

If Dennis re-reads my initial post here, I think he'll note that ecercise of the ballot was inherant in my answer to the topic question.

The traditional form of accountability in fact.

I had written: "The public's will to speak out and stand up for their rights to be free, and hold their leaders accountable under the law."

This goes far beyond mearly one person, one vote. It involves institutions including the judiciary. As well as the documents the rule of law is based upon, having been ratified by the people.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 9, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

It seems there are quite a number of issues to consider when gauging the continued growth of a democracy. But to keep it simple we can first consider the fundamentals that motivate a person or society, namely: to inspire a person to move towards a particular goal you have to show them that that particular goal is a more beneficial path to take than others. Here are some thoughts:

1. The constitution must be structured (or re-structured) so that it is fair and balanced, a system of checks and balances that ensures no persons or department has complete authority over the others. That way even if an overly ambitious person or group gains power, the system keeps them in check. The people must support and believe in the system. It must be built so that every person's voice is at least heard. Justice must be dealt out fairly and equally.

2. Education. What people are taught as youngsters often shape the rest of their lives. If you can make a strong case for the benefits of democracy early and imbue the pupils with faith in the system, you've planted the seeds that will grow in the minds of the future leaders of that nation. You have to give people the tools to think for themselves, to be self-accountable and have the ability to solve their problems.

3. Perhaps most importantly, there needs to be a degree of prosperity for all. There can be no equality when factions have to fight over scraps. That is why it is so hard for some dictatorships to hand over power, they are consumed with the natural desire to hoard power in all its forms because with out it they will die or be enslaved to others. Maslow's hierarchy of needs have to be met sufficiently before higher reasoning can take place. Otherwise we're all just animals fighting for enough to eat. The distribution of wealth must be spread out enough so that the lowest class is at least fed, housed, and healthy. "An empty sack cannot stand up on it's own." Or, "A full stomach is necessary for good manners."

4. So as not to turn this into a diatribe, I'll wrap it up with some of the other stated rights, the right to free speech: if a government is to be strong it must be able to hear dissent. Flexibility is the hallmark of a good democracy. A strong and functional army: as good fences make good neighbors. And to employ this basic tenet: Majority Rules, Minority Rights.

I guess in retrospect, all that is obvious, but those are my thoughts. I look forward to reading other people's perspectives on this strikingly deep question.

JOE
|
Tennessee, USA
July 9, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

1. Economic Stability and National Defense capabilities. They go hand and hand. The newer Democratic leadership must have one to have the other given it is a true democracy. The deliberate attack on either and lack of defense posturing capabilities can lead to an unstable solvency of the said government; thereby, causing collapse.

2. Strong ties to Allies who can provide protection of both Economic and Defense posturing until they become self sufficient.

3. Communication on all levels. The largest missing ingredient is leadership that is too far from its constituency or not open to its citizen base which may cause insecurity and paranoia, leading to disruptive activity.

4. Honesty and transparency of the Government to the people represented on both National and International levels.

5. Plans for growth which is obtainable. By this I am referring to an infrastructure priority platform. Many times the basic needs of the people presuppose the educational housing. Clean Water, food, housing and medical care are basic needs which must be addressed first, not as an encompassed program. People who have their basic needs met are less likely to revolt or cause problems with a new government system.

6. If it is a newly established Democracy, they have the responsibility to reach out to the borders of their country as well as the urban areas, showing actual change and care. The lack of doing so has been well documented on the long haul in South America. This lesson should be well documented by now.

7. The Government must be open to scrutiny from within and internationally.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 9, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Joe in TN- Great post! We said almost the same thing just in two different ways, though I wish I had your gift of verbal precision. Your take on reaching out to other countries rings true, a new democracy is like a young plant, it's still fragile and often needs to be protected.

Since the actual question was what SAFEGUARDS an emerging democracy, I realized I didn't really answer the question, but only gave the ingredients of what makes a good democracy. So I'll add just another point or two.

For Safety;
An intelligence agency needs to be implemented whose goal is to investigate and root out any foreign influence that attempts to undermine or manipulate the situation. There also needs to be some oversight of officials to curb corruption.

Laws that protect foreign and local investments as well as the opposite: laws against monopolies.

Like Joe said, a program that aggressively courts strong allies, good foreign relations, and also participates in global affairs where they can (if they wish to be seen as a legitimate power).

Ongoing dialog with the people and a commitment to transparency.

What are the dangers to a fresh democratic state? Opportunists, people with a large power base that wish to undermine the process for their gain. Dissatisfied military or under-regulated generals. Rebel forces. Manipulations by other countries as well as military attacks by neighbors. Stagnant economy. Racism, or bias especially in the armed forces.

So countering those threats are good first steps.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 9, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

After careful study of our reasons for occupying Iraq, it is obvious that only US military occupation can adequately protect emerging democracies. Let's occupy them to save them. There is nothing like a captive audience to get your point across.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 9, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Historicly, democracies commonly arise from socio/political crisis, and the aftermath of conflicts that are instigated by crisis.

Safe to say a democracy is not born in isolation, nor afforded security in its premis for sustainability.

The premis is fully dependant on the perception of sustainability, and that perception is embodied by the confidence that the people have of their elected government to sustain them through crisis.

A symbiotic process which may be mutually supporting to sustainability of a democracticly elected leadership, or predicate a change in leadership, for better or worse.

The framework of Constitutionaly mandated institutions of government and the relationships between them that sustain the structure of a democracy, are the foundation of stability and the public perception of stability in times of economic, political, or military crisis.

When placing this solely in a leader's lap, as a convienient scapegoat, or political hero, "The buck stops here.", is the leader's acknoledgement of responsibility, when in reality this is only a measure of the system of government's ability to become accountable to the people.

The many ammendments to the Constitution proves the rule of law is evolutionary of its own right, and not a static process.

One may note that the Declaration of Independance has never been modified, for it embodies the premis on which democracy rests as an idea....put to the test over time. And time and again will be even in a "stable" democracy with some history of sustainability.

Some might incorrectly call engaging in dialoge with fledgling (emerging) democracies, "meddling", but if imparting lessons learned by our own democratic birth defects and their resolution so these fledgling democratic experiments may avoid similar mistakes is in any way negative, consider the alternatives if no one nurtures them or encorages them to master their national destinies in a peaceful manner.

Meddlesome things like international debt relief, billions of dollars towards AIDS and malaria eradication, disease prevention, claen water and sanitation projects...the list is too long. Anyone can tap into the USAID website and begin to understand exactly how "meddlesome" America really is.

Truth is, a lot of people around the world are alive because of our meddlesome humanitarian ways.

And it goes without saying that there are many millions who are now more able to "meddle" in their own affairs than ever before, thanks to American and international intervention and the removal of tyrants.

As I said, democracies are not born in isolation.

Nor can they be sustained in isolation.

Joe
|
Tennessee, USA
July 10, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Hello Kirk: Must be the Plums I ate....awake for a change and simply done in std. summary report manner.

Zhukov (the correct spelling I believe)
Iraq is a separate issue completely and we don't have all the facts at our level as citizens. It is obvious there is a third party involved or more, which has been the actual problem. Please remember the Navy War college did state that given an occupation stance, it would be 2010 before stability would evolve to self dependency in Iraq, 2016 to 2020 in Afghanistan, with luck. No one went into this blind, including all of Congress. They all had the varied reports.

As the cards play out, the people stacking the deck will become exposed with each event. By intelligence standards you must have control functions in place first to trace out the missing pieces.

Yes, I always agreed that culturally, many of Americas leadership have lost sight of the citizen aspect in trying to do the greater good. What has occurred internally has hurt us externally as well. We put too much dependency on dealing with Leaders who are too far from their base to begin with and Neglected was the percentage of attachment to non viable leadership within the citizen base outside the urban areas.

Someone was wearing a T shirt one day which read: Never under estimate the power of dumb people in numbers.

Either we did or there are other vested intrest.

Reguardless, support is a basic necessity or the world will go into choas. It is only the non-democratic elements which threaten the world now. Does that not speak for itself?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 10, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Joe, I think the exact quote is, "Never underestimate the danger of idiots gathered in large numbers."

I think it was Mark Twain who originally offered this very sound advice....(chuckle).

BMC
July 11, 2008

BMC writes:

i have a more interesting question: What helps established democracies safeguard against threats to democratic gains?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 11, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

When public perception becomes a hard won attitude of sustainable freedom, then the public will becomes the driving force safeguarding the institutions of democracy.

Having a vested interest in the matter.

---

"We are up against some resilient and determined enemies. They are not yet defeated; they have the capacity to hit back. And that is what we are seeing, both from al-Qaeda and its allies, and from extremist Shia militias. But you are also seeing something else, which is a very sharp Iraqi reaction to these kinds of attacks.

I will just mention the one that took place in Sadr City on Tuesday that killed 4 Americans. Two days after that attack, the district council members that had been the target, along with us, reconvened, held the election that had been scheduled for Tuesday, elected a wounded council member as their new chairman, denounced the attackers, publicly thanked the United States for its support, extended its sympathies, and expressed their determination to take their neighborhood back from the militias who carried out that attack."

-Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Interview with CNN

June 29, 2008

http://iraq.usembassy.gov/remarks_06292008.html

Joe
|
Tennessee, USA
July 11, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Never underestimate the danger of idiots gathered in large numbers may be correct; but, I stated it was on a Tee shirt...

Seems a great quote in hindsight for Louis XVI before 14 July, 1789...when you think about it. Hey, it was the lack of a solid economic base the situation became volatile.

.

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