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DEMOCRACY IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
TWO TALES OF DEMOCRACY
(a) Establishment of Democracy in Chile:
Salvador Allende was the elected President of Chile. The government was pro-poor and pro-worker which did not find favour with rich and powerful sections. On March 11, 1976, military under General Pinochet marched into the Presidential palace bombarded it, Allende was killed. Government Pinochet ruled the country for next 17 years. Pinochet’s government tortured and killed several of those who supported Allende and those who wanted democracy to be restored. He organized referendum in 1988 in which the people were asked to express their confidence in Pinochet. People rejected Pinochet, political freedom was restored. Since then four presidential elections have been held in Chile. in January 2006, Michelle Bachelet was elected president of Chile. December has come back to Chile and has established itself there.
(b) Establishment of Democracy in Poland:
The polish United Workers Party, a communist party ruled over Poland with a strong support of the government of USSR. On August 14, 1980, the workers of Lenin Shipyard in the city of Gdansk went on a strike. Walesa assumed the leadership of striking workers. Government was forced to enter into an agreement with the workers which came to be known as the Gdansk agreement. The agreement provided freedom to organize protest and express opinions. An independent trade union Solidarity was formed. It grew in strength. In December 1981, Under General jaruzeiski, Martial law was imposed. All the right granted in Gdansk agreement was withdrawn. Solidarity organized a series of strikes in opposition to the government actions. Another agreement was signed in April 1989, which provided for free presidential elections. Walesa was elected president of Poland in October 1990. Thus democracy came to be restored in Poland.
(c) Characteristic of Various Governments under Various Leaders:
Chile under Allende: Rulers elected by the people
More than one party exist
People enjoyed basic political freedom
Chile under Pinochet: Criticism of the government not allowed
Military dictatorship, missing people
Ruler not elected by the people
Chile under Bachelet: The president was once a political prisoner
Ruler elected by the people
Poland under Jaruzeiski: Criticism of the government not allowed
Government owned all industries
Poland under Walesa: More than one parties exist
Ruler elected by the people
Common features and differences between the government of Allende in Chile, Walesa in Poland and Michelle in Chile
Common features: These three governments shared some common features. power was enjoyed by the people and not by the army.
The people enjoyed some basic political freedoms.
Differences: Differed in their approach towards social and economic matters.
(i) Allende preferred government control on all big industries and the economy.
(ii) Walesa wanted the market to be free of government interference.
(iii)Michelle stands somewhere in the middle on this issue, with both the government and individuals owning the industries.
Democracy is a form of government that allows people to choose their rulers. in a democracy:
(i) Only leasers elected by people should rule the country, and
(ii) People have the freedom to express views, freedom to organize and freedom to protest.
PHASES IN THE EXPANSION OF DEMOCRACY
(a) The Beginning:
(i) French Revolution of 1789 did not establish a secure and stable democracy in France. Throughout the nineteenth century, democracy in France was overthrown and restored several times. Yet the French Revolution inspired many struggles for democracy all over Europe.
(ii) In Britain, the progress towards democracy started much before the French Revolution. But the progress was very slow. through the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, series of political events reduced the monarchy and feudal lords. the right to vote was granted to more and more people.
(iii) The British colonies North America declared themselves independent in 1776. in the next few years these colonies came together to form the United States of America.they adopted a democratic constitution in 1787.
(iv) In the nineteenth century struggles for democracy often centered round political equality, freedom and justice. One major demand was the right for every adult citizen to vote. Many European countries that were becoming more democratic did not initially allow all people to vote. In some countries only people owning property had the right to vote. Often women did not have the right to vote. in the United States of America, the blacks all over the country could not exercise the right to vote until 1965.
(v) By 1900 New Zealand was the only country where every adult had voting right. Early democracies were established in Europe, North America and Latin America.
(b) End of Colonialism:
for a very long time most countries in Asia and Africa were colonies under the control of the European nations. People of the colonized countries had to wage struggles to achieve independence. They not only wanted to get rid of their colonial masters, but also wished to choose their future leaders. Many of these countries become democracies immediately after the end of the Second World War in 1945.
Course of Democracy in Ghana in Africa:
Ghana used to be a British colony. It was called Gold Coast. it got independent in 1957. Kwame Nkrumah, the son of a goldsmith and a teacher by profession, played an active role in making Ghana independent. He was Ghana’s President from 1957-1966. He was known internally for his attempts to promote the concept of Pan-Africanism. Nkrumah also played an important role in OAU (Organisation of African Unity). He deviated from the path of democracy by electing himself president for life. His major flaw was a desire for absolute power. Due to the unpopular measures taken by him, a coup occurred in 1966. Ghana came under military rule and ceased to be a democracy.
(c) Recent Phase:
“The big push towards democracy came after 1980”.
The period after 1980 witnessed to fast emergence of democracies in different parts of the world.
(i) Democracy was revived in several countries of Latin America.
(ii) Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. As a result:
Soviet influence over the former east European countries vanished; they changed themselves into democracies.
The former 15 Republics of the USSR got independent and opted for democracy.
(iii) In India’s neighborhood, countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal made a transition to democracy. Besides the aspirations of the local people in all these countries, a major reason for expansion of democracy was the open support extended by the USA to such demands.
Struggle of the people of Myanmar to establish a democratic government:
(i) Myanmar gained freedom from colonial rule in 1948 and became a democracy. But the democratic rule ended in 1962 with a military coup.
(ii) In 1990 elections were held for the first time after almost 30 years. the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the election.
(iii) The military leaders of Myanmar refused to step down and sis not recognize the election results. Instead, the military put the elected pro-democracy leaders, including Suu Kti, under house arrest. Political activists accused of even the most trivial offences been jailed.
(iv) anyone caught publicly airing views or issuing statements critical of the regime can be sentenced up to twenty years in prison.
(v) Due to the coercive policies of the military-ruled government in Myanmar, about 6 to 10 lakh people in that country have been uprooted from their homes and have taken shelter elsewhere.
(vi) Despite being under house arrest, Suu Kyi continued to campaign for democracy. her struggle has won international recognition. She has also been awarded the Noble Peace prize. Yet the people in Myanmar are still struggling to establish democratic government in their country.
DEMOCRACY AT THE GLOBAL LEVEL
The UN is a global association of nations of the world to help cooperation in international law, security, economic development and social equity. The UN Secretary General is its chief administrative officer. General Assembly: 193 countries form the membership of General Assembly, also know as world parliament, every member country sends five representatives but is allowed only one vote. Its headquarters are located in New York. Security Council: Most important organ of UN. Has 15 members-Five permanent (Britain, Russia, China, America and France) and 10 non-permanent members elected for years each. Permanent members enjoy Veto power. Security Council can impose trade sanctions on the warring countries and can take military action against them. Economic and Social Council: Economic and Social Council consists of 54 members and they are elected by the General Assembly for a period of three years. this council is mainly responsible for solving economic and social problems of the world. Trusteeship Council: Trusteeship Council is responsible for supervising the administration of trust territories. The Trusteeship Council consists of an equal number of administrating and non-administrating powers.International Court of Justice: It consists of fifteen judges who are elected by the General Assembly on the recommendations of the Security Council for Nine years. International Court of Justice decides the cases between the states.Secretariat: Secretariat comprises a Secretary General and such staff as the organization may require.Secretary General is the chief Administrative Officer of the Secretariat.
Is the UNO a democratic organization?
Every one of the 192 member countries of the UN has one vote in the UN General Assembly. It meets in regular yearly sessions under a president elected from among the representatives of the member countries. General Assembly is like the parliament where all the discussion takes place. in that sense the UN world appear to be a very democratic organisation. But the General Assembly cannot take any decision about what action should be taken in a confict between different countries. The fifteen-member Security Council of he UN takes such crucial decisions. The Council has five permanent members-US, Russia, UK, France and China. Ten other members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. The real power is with five permanent members. The permanent members, especially the US, contribute most of the money needed for the maintenance of the UN. Each permanent member has veto power. It means that the Council cannot take a decision if any permanent member says no to that decision. This system has led more and people and countries to protect and demand that the UN becomes more democratic.
Is the international Monetary Fund a demarcation organization?
No, IMF is not working democratically.
(i) International Monetary Fund is one of the biggest moneylenders for any country in the world.
(ii) Its 173 member states do not have equal voting rights.
(iii) The vote of each country is weighed by how much money it has contributed to the IMF.
(iv) Nearly half of the voting power in the IMF is in the hands of only seven countries (US, Japan, France, UK, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia).
(v) The remaining 166 countries have very little say in how this international organization takes decisions.
Story of Iraq:
Iraq becomes independent from British Rule in 1932. Since 1968, it was ruled by Arab Socialist Bath Party. In 1979, Saddam Hussein becomes the President of Iraq. After becoming the president, saddam ran a dictatorial government and suppressed any dissent or opposition to his rule. He was known to have got a number of political opponents killed and person of ethnic minorities massacred.
The US and its allies like Britain alleged that Iraq possessed secret nuclear weapons and other ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which posed a big threat to the world. But when a UN team went to Iraq to search for such weapons, it did not find any. Still the US and its allies invaded Iraq, occupied it and removed saddam Hussein from power in 2003. The US installed an interim government of its preference. The war against Iraq was not authorized by the UN Security Council. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, said that the US war on Iraq was illegal. After the war, it is being argued that it was important to end the dictatorial rule of Hussein and set up a democratic government in that country.
DIFFICULTIES PEOPLE FACE IN A NON-DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY
(i) Non-responsible Government; Non-democratic Governments rare not answerable to the people or any other institution. it can do as it wishes and no one can question it. Pinochet’s government in Chile tortured and killed several citizens who wanted democracy to be restored. More than 3000 people were killed by the military.
(ii) Non-Sovereign: Most of the non-democratic governments are non-sovereign. The Government of Pinochet, who become the President of Chile through military coup, was totally dependent on USA for its foreign policy.
(iii) No political party or single party: Another major problem for the people of non-democratic countries is that they have little choice. in Poland only-Polish United Worker’s Party was allowed to function. Those who spoken against the leaders or the party were put in prison.
(iv) No-Freedom Rights: People of non-democratic government don’t enjoy basic freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom to move freely, freedom to form unions or associations etc. when in Poland Solidarity started exposing widespread corruption in the government, thousands of Solidarity members were put in prison.
Freedom which are usually taken away when a democracy is overthrown by the military-
(i) Freedom to move freely
(ii) Freedom of speech and expression
(iii) Freedom to assemble peacefully
(iv) Freedom to from unions and associations
(v) Freedom of religion
(vi) Freedom of equality before law.