Monday, January 30, 2006

Do Elections Equate To Freedom And Then Democracy?

The recent elections by the Palestinians was the news of the week - no one was predicting such a lop-sided outcome, nor did many foresee the awkward nature of the results in terms of the United States position towards Hamas.

The immediate result was that there would be no talks with elected government of and by Hamas, as well as a suspension of aid to the Palestinian government.
"The United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations," under an international framework for eventual Mideast peace, Rice said.

In essence, the people voted to oust the old and place in power the new, and in so doing the United States would lead the way in retaliating.

Freedom on the march, indeed.

President George W. Bush made a speech in March of 2005 where he said:
"Today, people in a long-troubled part of the world are standing up for their freedom. In the last few months, we've witnessed successful elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories; peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut, and steps toward democratic reform in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The trend is clear: Freedom is on the march. Freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul, and spreading freedom's blessings is the calling of our time. And when freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful."

So the process as the President understands it is that the people must have the freedom to vote, and then when they gain this freedom, they get to fully participate in democracy. And when the results don't match a superpower's wishes, as is the case in Iraq's Parliamentary election on December 15th, or in Iran with the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the strong showing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Parliament elections in Egypt, the superpower may reserve the right to break off talks or support for the state in question.

It might help if the United States just didn't meddle in the process in the first place. Inducing radical change to a region (toppling a dictatorship that quashed freedom as well sectarian divisions ripe for exploitation by opposing sides) or egineering one side against another under the guise of national security interests is a proven recipe for political mud or much worse: results which actually contradict security interests. Neutrality some times has its advantages.

Hamas has obvious negatives: it supported suicide bombings and guerilla warfare and as is mentioned in every public statement or popular media report, the destruction of Israel. Or rather, the unification of Palestine and Israeli lands under one Islamic state. Is also has positives that undoubtedly influenced the electorate such as Article 21 of the Hamas Convenant. "Mutual social responsibility means extending assistance, financial or moral, to all those who are in need and joining in the execution of some of the work."

Maybe this was the time to bring Hamas into the greater fold of working towards the peaceful resolution of a decades long conflict. Now that the group has the responsibility and interests of the electorate to consider, moderation may become a necessary next step.

Unfortunately, the reward for winning an election is an overly strong rebuke from the United States and the European Union. Thus when you don't like who wins, be certain to marginalize and quite possibly further radicalize the government any way you can. This is not how to reward freedom nor encourage democracy.

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