Archive for the ‘democracy’ Tag

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. Can Arab countries be real democracies? Well, one of them, Tunisia, just did well on a big test. More than 20 years ago the scholar Samuel Huntington established his famous two- turnover test for fledgling democracies. He argued that a country can only be said to be a consolidated democracy when there have been two peaceful transitions of power.

Tunisia passed Huntington’s test after last weekend’s election when for the second time a ruling establishment agreed to hand over power. Tunisia’s relative success is in marked contrast to the abysmal failure of Egypt. The Arab world’s largest and once most influential country.

As in Tunisia Egyptians also overthrew a dictator three years ago, but after Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy in which the Muslim Brotherhood was elected and then abused its authority, today the country is ruled by a repressive dictatorship. I recently asked a secular liberal Egyptian from Cairo who was involved in the uprising against Hosni Mubarak whether the current regime feels like a return of the old order. Oh, no, he said. This one is far more brutal, repressive, and cynical than Mubarak’s.

Why did Tunisia succeed where Egypt failed? Analysts of the two countries have offered lots of answers, but the most common one is that Tunisia’s Islamists were just better than Egypt’s. In both countries Islamist parties won the first election, but as many have pointed out, Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, which is a rough equivalent of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, sought to share power while their Egyptian brethren did not.

Now Tarek Masoud, the author of a fascinating new book on Islamists and elections entitled “Counting Islam,” suggests that Tunisia’s success and Egypt’s failure had less to do with the quality of its Islamists than with deep differences in those countries’ political environments. Tunisia is more developed, more urban, more literate, and more globalized than Egypt.

It has a more diverse civil society than Egypt, stronger labor unions, civic associations, professional groups, and so there was relative parity between Islamists and their opponents. Tunisia’s Islamic party shared power, in other words, not because it was nicer than the Muslim Brotherhood, but because it had to. Tunisia had more of the preconditions that have historically helped strengthen democracy than did Egypt.

Of course, Tunisia faces many economic challenges. Its youth unemployment rate is around 30 percent. The government is battling Islamist militants at home and recent reports have suggested that the Arab world’s only democracy is also its biggest exporter of fighters to join ISIS. Though this may be because Tunisia is relatively open and not a closed police state like Egypt.

But Tunisia’s relative success does suggest there is nothing inherent in Islam or Arab society that makes it impossible for democracy to take root there. You need favorable economic and political conditions for sure in the Arab world as elsewhere. You need good leadership, and you probably need some luck.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1411/02/fzgps.01.html

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The Federal Reserve chair told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that she shared his concerns about wealth inequality and its distorting effects on democracy, but she declined to offer any solutions.

Sanders pointed Wednesday during a Joint Economic Committee hearing to a recent study that found corporate interests dominated politics at the expense of ordinary citizens, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen said she agreed.

“All of the statistics on inequality you’re cited are ones that greatly concern me, and I think for the same reasons that you’re concerned about them,” Yellen said.

She said money was often the deciding factor in which voices were heard during the political process, but she stopped short when Sanders asked if the United States had ceased to be a capitalist democracy but had instead become an oligarchy.

“I prefer not to give labels, but there’s no question we’ve had the trend toward growing inequality, and I personally find it very worrisome trend that deserves the attention of policy makers,” Yellen said.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen won’t tell Bernie Sanders whether U.S. is democracy or oligarchy

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The conservative attorney and birther who called for a coup against President Barack Obama earlier this month has scheduled what he’s describing as a “day of reckoning.”

Larry Klayman wrote Monday in Renew America that he’s established Nov. 19 as the date that Obama will be forced to answer for his “criminality” and “Muslim, socialist, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-white, pro-illegal immigrant, pro-radical gay and lesbian agenda.”

Klayman said he hopes his supporters will “descend on Washington, D.C., en masse, and demand that [Obama] leave town and resign from office if he does not want to face prison time.”

As he did earlier this month when he first floated his coup proposal, Klayman invoked the example of Egyptians toppling President Mohammed Morsi.

“We must act now. Our Founding Fathers pledged their sacred honor, fortunes, and lives to form a new nation under God. They knew that the odds of defeating the British were not great, save for His Divine grace and intervention. Now, 237 years after they signed the Declaration of Independence in my native city of Philadelphia, the nation has come full circle to the tyranny that has been imposed by a new despot, one far more evil than King George III. King George III may have been a greedy “control freak,” but at least he was a Christian. The United States is being run by a Muslim bent on furthering an Islamic caliphate who seeks to destroy our spirituality and the body politic of our Judeo-Christian roots.

Life is not easy. It requires risk and sacrifice. If as a nation we want to restore our freedom, and we are on the verge of being enslaved under Obama’s socialist Muslim inclinations, we must take our fight to a new level. Tea partiers, bikers, construction workers, police officers, school teachers, farmers, truckers, clergy, housewives, husbands, students, doctors, lawyers and all elements of our society who see our nation slipping away into the abyss, must now stand tall and descend on the capital, much like the Egyptians recently did in ousting another radical Muslim, their then president Mohammed Morsi. If the Egyptians can seek to rid their country of the poison of the Muslim Brotherhood without any real history of democracy, then we Americans, who know what democracy is and have practiced it prior to the ascension of the great usurper, can and must succeed.”

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/conservative-attorney-larry-klayman-sets-date-for-coup-against-obama

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:

But, first, here my take. It is the defining moment of a democracy when an outgoing leader celebrates the election of a new one, from the opposing party. Think of George H.W. Bush welcoming Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter doing the same for Ronald Reagan.

Across the world, this is the acid test of a real democracy. Mexicans will tell you that they knew that they had gotten there when their president, Ernesto Zedillo, after 70 years of one-party rule, allowed free elections and stood with the newly elected successor and affirmed his legitimacy.

The basic and powerful idea behind this ritual is that in a democracy, the process is more important than the outcome. If a genuine democratic process has been followed, we have to accept the results, regardless of how much we may dislike them.

The ultimate example of this in recent American history might be Al Gore’s elegant acceptance of the process

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: Complicated, politicized, but utterly constitutional that put George W. Bush in the White House.

It must also have been very difficult for Richard Nixon to report the results of the 1960 election when John F. Kennedy won by a razor- thin margin and was marred by voter fraud, but he did. However much you dislike the outcome, you respect the democratic process.

That is what is at stake in Washington this week. The debate going on there was not trivial, not transitory and not about Obamacare. Whatever you think about the Affordable Care Act, it is a law that was passed by the House of Representatives, then the Senate, signed by the president, and then validated by the Supreme Court as constitutional.

That doesn’t mean it cannot be repealed. Of course it can be repealed, as can most laws. But to do so, you would need another piece of legislation, one that says quite simply “The Affordable Care Act is hereby repealed in its entirety” and that would have to then pass the House, the Senate and be signed into law by the president.

What you cannot do, what cannot be allowed to stand is the notion that if a group of legislators cannot convince a majority in both houses and the president to agree with them, would then shut down the government or threaten to default until they got their way. That is not democracy. That is extortion.

I would be happy to see President Barack Obama compromise on the budget, taxes, spending, even Obamacare, but he cannot compromise on the principle that the rules of democracy must be respected, whatever the outcome.

If Democrats had threatened to shut down the government or default on the debt to force the repeal of the Bush tax cuts or to defund the Iraq War, I would have hoped that President George Bush would have also been uncompromising.

America’s power and influence abroad derives in large measure from the strength of its democracy. And if politicians here start playing fast and loose with the rules, doing whatever it takes to get the results that they want, what does that say to people in Russia, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela who get pious lectures on the rules of democracy from Americans?

It tells them that something is deeply rotten with the American system right now.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1310/06/fzgps.01.html

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I’m Fareed Zakaria……

But, first, here’s my take. We are watching a season of discontent in the world of young democracies, from Egypt to Turkey to Brazil. Protests, marches, and of course, one coup.

As we watch the turbulence around the globe, I think about our own democratic journey and how interesting it is that the distinctive feature of the American system is not how democratic it is, but rather how undemocratic it is.

Hear me out. We have three co-equal branches of government and the one with the final say on many issues, the Supreme Court, is composed of 9 unelected men and women.

The American senate is the most unrepresentative upper house in the democratic universe, with the exception of Britain’s House of Lords, which is of course utterly powerless.

California’s 38 million people have the same representation in the Senate as do Wyoming’s 576,000. State and local governments battle federal power. Private businesses and other nongovernmental groups, are also part of this mix.

Now, there are aspects of the system that many Americans don’t like. I think the Senate, in general, is a broken institution from its representation to its absurd rules about filibusters.

But the system of checks and balances, as the famous phrase goes, has, in general worked well. The form of government that came out of the French Revolution, by contrast, is one of absolute sovereignty, centralizing all powers at the top.

Since that revolution, France has had many upheavals and changes in regime, going through two monarchies, two empires, one crypto- fascist dictatorship and five republics.

The United States, by contrast, has had a continuous constitutional existence. Why is this important as we look at the world today?

Well, in so many of these cases, what we are watching are democratic governments, elected freely and fairly, that are abusing individual rights, ignoring minority parties and eroding checks and balances.

Observing the early flowering of this phenomenon in the mid 1990s, I described it as illiberal democracy. And this is the problem we confront in the Arab world and so many other developing countries.

The good news is that other elements within society are fighting against this kind of illiberal democracy; political groups, student movements.

Even the clash between the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood could be useful in the long-run because it resembles the clashes between kings and lords, the church and the state, the aristocracy and the new business elites in the development of Western liberal democracy.

It can look very messy while it’s happening and neither side has a monopoly of virtue, but the contest between various power centers over time does help to create a system of checks and balances.

So, what we’re watching might look like crisis and breakdown, but it might turn out to be the road to better government.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1308/25/fzgps.01.html

Posted August 26, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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Fareed Zakaria “But first, here’s my take.

The events in Egypt over the last week have been fascinating, but, also, a bit bewildering. Most of us don’t quite know what to make of them. Is what happened there a good thing or a bad thing?

So, let’s start with some basic facts. The government that was deposed in Egypt was an elected government. Mohamed Morsy’s Freedom and Justice Party won the presidential elections, the parliamentary elections and a referendum to approve a new Egyptian Constitution.

So, there’s no getting around it, this was the party that represented the wishes of the Egyptian people as expressed through the ballot box three times.

On the other hand, the government ruled in an arbitrary and high- handed manner and, in many, many cases, violated human rights and outlawed its political opponents.

President Morsy announced that his decrees were above judicial scrutiny. He banned members of the previous ruling party from participating in politics for 10 years. He did little about the attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsy had been a lifelong member, had promised not even to seek the presidency or even a parliamentary majority and it reneged on both pledges creating this new Freedom and Justice Party as a facade.

In 1997, I wrote an essay describing the rise of what I called. “illiberal democracies,” elected governments that were abusing individual rights and freedoms. The Morsy government is a textbook example of such a regime.

But it is important to note that the post-Morsy in Egypt, the current government, does not look like one that is upholding liberty in any sense either.

Indeed, the more the arrests and the crackdowns continue, it looks like the old Mubarak military complex crowned once more over the ashes of democracy.

This has been Egypt’s and the Arab world’s tragedy. These lands are caught between repressive dictatorships on the one hand and illiberal democracies on the other. And from this vicious cycle, there does not seem much space for genuine liberty to break out.

So what should the United States do to help the cause of freedom and stability in Egypt? Well, a suspension of U.S. aid right now would plunge an already bankrupt country into deeper chaos.

But Washington should announce that it will continue its aid for a limited period, say two months, while it determines whether the new government is, in fact, moving to restore genuine democracy in Egypt.

Specifically, it should ask for three things. The end to arbitrary arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood or any groups or people for political opposition. Also, the end of the crackdown on the media in all forms.

The writing of a new constitution through a process that includes all major voices in Egyptian life, the scheduling of parliamentary and presidential elections in which everyone can participate, including and most especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

If these conditions are not met, than Washington will have no alternative than to recognize the reality that this is not the restoration of democracy nor a path to moderation and inclusion, this is a pretty old-fashioned military coup and it should be treated as such.

If you’d like to take a look at that 1997 essay, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” it’s up on our website, cnn.com/fareed. It still holds up pretty well.”

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1307/07/fzgps.01.html

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Back at the presidential palace in Heliopolis, Morsi supporters slam Tahrir protesters for, they say, “opposing the revolution.”

“We fully support our president’s decisions. Why do they want judicial powers to prevail while the judiciary needs to be completely purged?,” asks Mariam El-Shafei, a member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party who bought her two children to the demonstration.

“People who are in Tahrir now, like former tourism minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, are the ones who wanted the military to remain in power and preside over the constitution. Those in Tahrir do not have principles, they’re opposing for the sake of opposition, but we are defending our country, our revolution. I can’t say I’m not worried that Egyptians are dividing but we assure them we, here, are not merely perusing our own interests.”

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/58968/Egypt/Politics-/Live-updates-Rival-protests-erupt-across-Egypt.aspx

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Protesters in Egypt have set fire to Muslim Brotherhood offices in several cities, according to state TV.

They were demonstrating against President Mohammed Mursi’s decision to grant himself sweeping new powers

His decree states, among other things, that the president’s decisions cannot be revoked by any authority – including the judiciary.

Rival rallies have been held across the country by supporters and opponents of Mr Mursi.

Offices of the president’s Muslim Brotherhood party were reportedly attacked in the cities of Port Said and Ismailia. Earlier reports of an attack on the office in Suez were denied.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20458148

Posted November 23, 2012 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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