Democracy on the Run


             Marble Falls      I was asked to do keynote for a conference on development coming up soon, with the suggested topic being “challenges to democracy.”  This is the African and African-American Education Research and Training (AADERT) conference, which has been held off and on for more than 30 years.  I’m glad to carry this weight, but talking about “challenges to democracy” is sort of a Debbie Downer job right now on the global scene.  Worse, the role of the United States seems to be as an enabler of some of the wrong turns that countries are taking.

Take India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, running for a new term, in what they like to call the “world’s largest democracy” is using state power at every level to try and win, especially in the southern states that have been holdouts to his program of Hindu nationalism.  He has tried to delist parties, pulled the registrations from nonprofits, denied and slowed down payments due from the national government to the states for public projects, and threatened opposing party politicians unless they come over the BJP.

Take Pakistan, which the US funds extravagantly to buttress their military, which pulls the strings on the civilian government.  The governing party has filed one criminal charge after another on the former prime minister and cricket star and tried to outlaw his party, yet running as independents they clearly won the election.  The US is reportedly opposed to his victory and is looking the other way at massive vote stealing in the recent election, even as one of the election judges in a major city has publicly confessed to widespread participation in ballot stuffing for the ruling team and military.

Take Thailand, another country with military rulers in a US-tolerated coup who continue to lose elections to parties and candidates they have blocked or banned, and refuse to allow the leader of the winning party to become the Prime Minister.

Take Egypt, which we fund fully as well, that also had a military abetted coup where we didn’t miss a beat to tolerate and support.

Take Israel, where Netanyahu is holding on by a thread despite widespread disapproval and seems to be continuing the outrages in Gaza, no matter how clearly provoked by the Hamas massacre, with a death count of over 35,000 Palestinians, solely to remain in power according to many observers.

Take Russia and China…let’s just say less.

Then there’s Africa.  Recently, Senegal seems to be catching a break as the leader seems to be agreeing to not extend his term, but to allow elections.  Meanwhile the US tolerates autocrats and anti-democratic leaders.  The Africa Center lists Angola, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, South Sudan, Sudan, Chad, Mali, Libya, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Eswatini as autocratic.  They also list Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Central Africa Republic, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Gabon, Guinea, and Zimbabwe as semi-autocratic.  Not sure how they look at the metrics, but it’s safe to say, not democratic by a long shot.

I’ve got my work cut out for me to find some good news for fans of democracy these days.