I hope that I am not alone in closely monitoring developments in the so-called “western world” as they pertain to the perceived underpinning of the sacred cow of parliamentary democracy in these countries. The picture emerging is not an encouraging one.
Nearly 80 years after the crushing defeat of fascism and the rule of white supremacism, and six decades after the collapse of colonial rule, there is substantial evidence of the resurgence of these white supremacist ideas to the extent that even the very system that we were told, and, to a large majority still believe, that is elections and parliamentary democracy, western style, are under attack by the very people who sold us the ideas in the first instance.
Two examples are very instructive for us, from the two most populous countries in the Western Hemisphere, the United States of America (USA) and Brazil. Incidentally, these are the countries with the largest populations of people of African origin outside the African continent itself.
Brazil has just had its final round of presidential elections resulting in a narrow win for the leader of the Workers’ Party, Lula DaSilva, a two-time former president. His opponent, an extreme right-winger, Luis Bolsonaro, an open supporter of military dictatorship, has yet to concede defeat, even though the whole world knows differently.
He has, instead gone on record as saying that the “electoral system is flawed” leaving room open for allegations of “cheating” and giving his supporters who have blocked major highways in that vast country, succour in their actions. It is instructive to recall that on more than one occasion prior to the elections, Bolsonaro, the man in power, has not only cast doubt about the electoral system, he has publicly declared that he would not accept any other result but his victory.
Sounds familiar to you? Well in the USA, where the last presidential election took place two years ago, the loser, a businessman by the name of Donald Trump, facing multiple charges of fraud, deception, insurrection and even rape, has up until today, not only refused to accept his defeat, but has mobilized millions of his supporters to do the same, challenging the very electoral system as a consequence. His is the line that Bolsonaro has taken, that elections are fraudulent unless “we win”.
The consequences of this are already being felt all over the USA and no matter how many times the “election deniers” as they proudly call themselves, lose in court, the charges are maintained. So, elections must either produce wins for these crazed folks, or they must be “fraudulent” and the results challenged by “all means” deemed necessary.
Now the USA is, whether we like it or not, considered to be a model of western democracy, a so-called “bastion” of freedom in the fight against undemocratic systems of governance. Together with the “mother of parliamentary democracy”, the United Kingdom, and other western democracies like France and Italy, they are upheld as the models by which we ought to be governed.
Most of the political parties in the Caribbean subscribe to these models.
But today’s realities punch gaping holes in that abiding faith. In the USA, the Republican Party, tipped to win the mid-term elections next week, now openly challenges elections themselves as a basic tenet of governance.
Its lodestar has not only spurred an insurrection against the legitimate elections of 2020, but is on the verge of being nominated as a presidential candidate for 2024 in spite of challenging the electoral system itself and refusing to say whether he would accept defeat if the voters so decided.
In Britain, the right-wing Conservative party is in chaos. Having provided three Prime Ministers in three months and numerous changes in the top leadership of the government. It is refusing to accede to popular demands for a new election. Italy and France both suffered greatly from right-wing fascism under Hitler and Mussolini, who engulfed the world in its most destructive war ever. But Italy has just chosen a successor of the fascist Mussolini, as Prime Minister, its first-ever female in that position; and France under Marie Le Pen, who ousted her own father, is not far from the horizon.
All over Europe the right-wing threat looms with extreme examples in power as in Hungary, Poland, other eastern European states and now, increasingly Scandinavia, long a bedrock of “western democracy”. The narrow nationalist views have caused disruptions to the idealistic views of a European western democracy so that not only did Britain’s Conservatives succeed in wrenching the U.K. away from the European Union but internal stresses are casting doubt about its future.
So, what does it have to do with us? We shall discuss next week.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.