Not Quite Getting Democracy

Libya’s Justice and Construction Party, in other words the Muslim Brotherhood, has issued for the July 7 elections eight principles that they believe all Libyans should observe. Many of the principles are inspiring and recognize the importance of diversity, non-violence and the rule of law in building a democracy. All heartening and good stuff!

But there is also talk of forming a national consensus and principle 8 comes close to contradicting itself. It states: “Laying the foundations of freedom and respect for political pluralism in a cultural and social framework of national unity.”

Principle 7 lays it out more clearly. Libyans should always respect “the higher interest of the nation” and subordinate partisan, regional, tribal or individual interests to it. But who defines the higher national interest? Isn’t there a hint here of totalitarianism? One would have more faith in this blending of national interest and pluralism and diversity, if the months leading up to the elections had been marked by political transparency, both when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Transitional Council. But it hasn’t.

Decision-making on the NTC has been markedly opaque. An NTC member from Benghazi told me that the NTC has been controlled all along by a cabal of Muslim Brotherhood members and old Gaddafi figures. There are no votes, no regular NTC-wide meetings and no open, formal debate. Decisions are just announced and most NTC members don’t get a look-in. There are no set procedures. Leads one to wonder if the elections will change anything much.

 

Iowa: Who Won? Don’t Know. Never Mind!

So apparently Iowa is now too close to call and maybe Rick Santorum won after all. And we trot around the globe encouraging others to follow our democratic processes!

Both the US and UK have excellent non-profit agencies funded by US AID and the Department of International Development counseling various electoral commissions in foreign countries, training poll-workers and advising on electoral process and we can’t get it right ourselves — the Florida debacle and now this in Iowa.

At the last UK general election there were several constituencies where thousands of voters were prevented from voting. But there were no re-runs — when there should have been. Now what does the Bible say, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

NBC points out that the Iowa Caucus results are not binding, meaning the results do not dictate which candidate the delegates at the national conventions in the summer vote for. “So not having an actual ‘winner’  of the caucuses will not have as big of an impact as it would in other binding states,” the news report states.

Maybe so, but declaring Mitt Romney did have an impact on the race: it allowed the former Massachusetts governor to build up a sense of inevitability about his candidacy that likely influenced some voters in New Hampshire and almost certainly helped his campaign fundraising. In short, it had a distorting affect.