What Kind Of Democracy Do We Want?

There are lots of rumours swirling around at the moment relating to the general election. Just the other night I received a call from a person, calling himself a party
07 Sep 2014 10:12
What Kind Of Democracy Do We Want?

There are lots of rumours swirling around at the moment relating to the general election.

Just the other night I received a call from a person, calling himself a party insider. He posed two questions. What would happen if SODELPA wins? Will there be a coup? I said “No. The RFMF has made it clear that it will uphold the Constitution.”

Second question: What would happen if FijiFirst wins?  I said it will form the new government and carry on as normal. Then he said something that disturbed me. He said “there are many angry people around and there could be protests.” Then the phone went dead. But he got me thinking. Is this the kind of democracy we want where losing an election is not acceptable? In any contest, there will be a winner and a loser. This is democracy. The Prime Minister is on record saying that he will accept the results of this election.

Someone had conjured up an idea and it has now taken on its own life? Those who are fanning the flame of  the idea of possible protests have an ulterior motive. They are doing it to create fear and instability in the minds of people to gain cheap political mileage.

Lessons learnt

Haven’t they had enough of political upheaval after we went through crisis after crisis since the first military coup by Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987? Fiji must also be in the same equation as other countries in the minds of the writers of an essay titled  “What’s gone wrong with democracy?” that was published in the authoritative weekly, The Economist, recently.

It said democracy had lost the momentum going forward.

“The two main reasons are the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the rise of China. The damage the crisis did was psychological as well as financial. It revealed fundamental weaknesses in the West’s political systems, undermining the self-confidence that had been one of their great assets,” the article said.

“Governments had steadily extended entitlements over decades, allowing dangerous levels of debt to develop, and politicians came to believe that they had abolished boom-bust cycles and tamed risk. Many people became disillusioned with the workings of their political systems—particularly when governments bailed out bankers with taxpayers’ money and then stood by impotently as financiers continued to pay themselves huge bonuses. The crisis turned the Washington consensus into a term of reproach across the emerging world.”

In Fiji, the collapse of the National Bank of Fiji was an example of how those in authority at the time failed big time to stop the abuse that choked the bank to death. It was a national shame and disgrace. People began to question the sincerity and integrity of the leaders. They also lost confidence in the political leadership.

Chinese model

The Economist continued:

“Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party has broken the democratic world’s monopoly on economic progress. Larry Summers, of Harvard University, observes that when America was growing fastest, it doubled living standards roughly every 30 years. China has been doubling living standards roughly every decade for the past 30 years. The Chinese elite argue that their model—tight control by the Communist Party, coupled with a relentless effort to recruit talented people into its upper ranks—is more efficient than democracy and less susceptible to gridlock. The political leadership changes every decade or so, and there is a constant supply of fresh talent as party cadres are promoted based on their ability to hit targets.

“China says its model is more efficient than democracy and less susceptible to gridlock

“China’s leaders have been able to tackle some of the big problems of state-building that can take decades to deal with in a democracy. In just two years China has extended pension coverage to an extra 240m rural dwellers, for example—far more than the total number of people covered by America’s public-pension system.

Public approval

“Many Chinese are prepared to put up with their system if it delivers growth. The 2013 Pew Survey of Global Attitudes showed that 85 per cent of Chinese were “very satisfied” with their country’s direction, compared with 31 per cent of Americans.

“Some Chinese intellectuals have become positively boastful. Zhang Weiwei of Fudan University argues that democracy is destroying the West, and particularly America, because it institutionalises gridlock, trivialises decision-making and throws up second-rate presidents like George Bush junior. Yu Keping of Beijing University argues that democracy makes simple things “overly complicated and frivolous” and allows “certain sweet-talking politicians to mislead the people”. Wang Jisi, also of Beijing University, has observed that “many developing countries that have introduced Western values and political systems are experiencing disorder and chaos” and that China offers an alternative model. Countries from Africa (Rwanda) to the Middle East (Dubai) to South-East Asia (Vietnam) are taking this advice seriously.”

Fiji has built close ties with China in the past eight years. Fijians’ choice in this election is important because it determines which path we take.

Do we go down the path to countries in Africa, Middle East and South-East Asia? Or do we push on with our fledgling new democracy?

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj


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