Stop Pretending That Merely Holding Elections Is Democracy: Barack Obama

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Former United States President Barack Obama spoke out against strongman politics and the pretence of democracy. Speaking at an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Tuesday, Obama said,

Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretence of democracy are maintained — the form of it — but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning…So we have to stop pretending that countries that just hold an election where sometimes the winner somehow magically gets 90 percent of the vote because all the opposition is locked up or can’t get on TV is a democracy.

…Democracy depends on strong institutions and it’s about minority rights and checks and balances, and freedom of speech and freedom of expression and a free press, and the right to protest and petition the government, and an independent judiciary, and everybody having to follow the law. And yes, democracy can be messy, and it can be slow, and it can be frustrating. I know, I promise. But the efficiency that’s offered by an autocrat, that’s a false promise. Don’t take that one, because it leads invariably to more consolidation of wealth at the top and power at the top, and it makes it easier to conceal corruption and abuse. For all its imperfections, real democracy best upholds the idea that government exists to serve the individual and not the other way around. And it is the only form of government that has the possibility of making that idea real.

More: New York Times

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7 comments

  1. truth Reply

    Plain truth. Ohh!! Zimbabwe when shall we open our eyes.
    Thank you Mr Obama.

  2. Cde Mzvinavhu(Prof) Reply

    True. Real democracy in SA should include the majority of black people recovering their land from Boers. Mandela and de Klerk were given Noble Prizes for their co-role in producing a constitution that protects a neo-apartheid economic system in SA. The tension over economic democracy is rising in that country.

  3. Cde Mzvinavhu(Prof) Reply

    @truth: Zimbabwean elections will be held based on the country`s electoral law. Our eyes are opened to make sure the electoral law provisions are adhered to. So far the law is being respected in the process. However, one opposition leader whose party lost in parliament on their proposals to amend the law is saying his party should be treated based on how the law should have been amended. The issue is should we operate outside our statutes? If our statutes need further amendment, that should be brought in the next parliament for consideration. If Obama is insinuating on our elections, he should know that imposing sanctions on Zim because of our land reform did not make the US a champion of democracy. His country`s economy was developed using black slave labor for which no reparations have been given to the blacks in the US and Africa to date. Are you thanking Obama for the sanctions continuity as requested by some political leaders in Zim? My foot!

  4. Uncle Sam Reply

    Who is Obama, where is he in Zim, He, in his sober senses, can never indulge in such a poor talk with reference to Zimbabwean politics, it is so clear that Zimbabweans are being forced back home in UK. They don’t want us these people.

  5. Kudzai Reply

    Chamisa will win Presidential election & democracy will have a chance in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe will once again become the corner stone of Africa.

    ZANU PF has failed, for 38 years dragging the country to the mud..what else will they offer that is different for they are the same faces that has been there from the beginning. All they have & doing is preach about the liberation struggle telling us how they feel that they are entitled to be the rulers of the land….we don’t need rulers but leaders.

    Zimbabwe needs to open a new page & pen new dispensation. A battle of ideas as to how the country can move forward not to be stuck in a system of how to consolidate power no matter how costly it is for the nation.

    Yes, democracy is possible & yes without democracy there is no room for growth.

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