Browse By

The Trouble with Democracy: UK’s elections, Nigeria’s uncertainty, Kenya’s expectant wait

Democracy forever teases us with the contrast between its ideals and its realities, between its heroic possibilities and its sorry achievements.Agnes Repplier, April 1, 1855 – November 15, 1950

A red-shirt anti-government protester lifts a bottle full of blood, collected from fellow protesters, during a mass demonstration in front of Government House in Bangkok,Thailand, on 16 March 2010. EPA/UDOWEITZ

UK 2010 Elections : A shabby Display from Bastion of Democracy

LONDON, England.

The Queen’s land; the soil in which Princess Diana lies is battling to save face. Reports from UK’s 2010 elections have exposed the soft underbelly of the kingdom’s  political system. No clear mandate to any of the clowns on show (at least in the minds of the British citizenry, no fairer Devil among them, going by the lack of a clear majority). “Inconclusive” that is what major media houses term these elections that took place in over 600 constituencies across the united Kingdom.

One thing is clear though, the UK electorate is tired of the costly, and unnecessary overseas wars of the Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s of this world. Tired of Labor party foreign policy. Therefore, may be the Conservatives could make a come back after nearly a decade out of Downing Street 10? or will it be Liberal Democrats ? For so long, the LibDems, have stood no chance against the century old system crafted by their competitors. Now they could have a shout.

But still, even with the nations prevailing mood, Nick Clegg’s charisma and intelligent talk wasn’t enough to overcome the limiting UK campaign funding regulations. Limiting because with such a handicap, the LibDems desperately needed to amplify their rhetoric, but with a 30million cap on expenditure, and with the biggest megaphone — TV — out of reach, they couldn’t swing the votes necessary to cause the Obama effect.

Nonetheless the LibDems scored a big one.

They now hold the necessary clout to confirm their status as the party to lead Britain into the next decade even if they lack a House of Commons majority. Still, they could just accept the olive branch extended by the Labor Party seeking to lead for a fourth consecutive term albeit in the more unfamiliar vehicle of a Coalition government.

Nick Clegg

Last Saturday, the leading class including members of the Royal family met at a church service to commemorate British lives that were gallantly lost some 9 decades ago fighting in the first world war fought to protect the freedoms of their motherland. Today, Saturday 8th May 2010, the political leaders (Nick Clegg of the LibDems, Gordon Brown of the Labour party and  David Cameron of the Conservatives ponder on how to secure the future of the Kingdom.

Modern democracies will face difficult new challenges–fighting terrorism, adjusting to globalization, adapting to an aging society–and they will have to make their system work much better than it currently does. That means making democratic decision-making effective, reintegrating constitutional liberalism into the practice of democracy, rebuilding broken political institutions and civic associations. Perhaps most difficult of all, it requires that those with immense power in our societies embrace their responsibilities, lead, and set standards that are not only legal, but moral. Without this inner stuffing, democracy will become an empty shell, not simply inadequate but potentially dangerous, bringing with it the erosion of liberty, the manipulation of freedom, and the decay of a common life.Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom

The man of the moment Nick Clegg fronts his magical  quartet: tax, education, economic and political/ electoral reforms as the foundations of any alliances that are to be formed. However, according to observers, electoral/political reforms appear to be the ultimate goal for the LibDems in any deal, especially after the (for lack of a better word) sham elections.

Gaming Elections

The UK 2010 elections were rigged with reports of unfortunate tales of long queues at ballot centers. It was also not uncommon to find ballot centers that had ran out of ballot papers. All this lead to the unthinkable in democracy. Democracy is a system that is reliant on the people having their say. The missteps in this election contrived to deny voters of  this very right as they were turned away.

Moreover, protests have been held against Britain’s current system which favors the majority by awarding the party with most votes and neglecting the supporters of losing candidates. Any political party that will be able to calm the seething anger across the nation over the apparent collapse of democracy, will be sure to endear itself to the voters.

Kenya’s Expectant wait after High Stakes Horse Trading Undertaken to Preserve Democracy


He is of a rare kind, One who delivers on his promises. Yesterday, as he had promised, he touched down in Nairobi. The capitals, dailies had done more than their fair share to announce his imminent arrival, way in advance and also on the material day, with headlines spun one way or the other. The reason for his arrival is clear as he seeks closure on the post poll violence that rocked Kenya in early 2008. A blight, that ins unerringly not unfamiliar, that has put this young democracy in a situation akin to that of its colonial master Britain.

Ladies and gentlemen, enter, the International Criminal Courts ICC, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

No suspects he says, so everyone is free to come and present evidence on local personalities that had been heavily been linked to the heinous post poll crimes against humanity ranging from rape to murder. But when he is done, he promises once again, the criminals will be exposed and those responsible for financing, controlling and inciting young men into those acts identified and charged.

Kenya now has a coalition government after internationally brokered negotiations led to constitutional amendments that allowed for this form of governance. The country went a step further and  embarked on a stalled constitutional overhaul that had been marred by problems largely borne out of political despondency.

This new quest nonetheless still faces obstacles as contention has arisen over longstanding issues touching on human rights with the church constituency in Kenya vigorously opposed to the provisions on Abortion and entrenchment of the Kadhi’s courts in the constitution. We wait…

Nigeria Weighs if Democracy is a Game of Luck

ABUJA, Nigeria

Jonathan Goodluck. What’s in a name you might ask? Everything this man might testify, but only if. If Jonathan, previously the acting president and now confirmed president,  is able to muster all the good omens that his parents may have wished him when naming him. Because in between his acting president and incumbency, Africa’s 3rd largest economy has been flirting with its not so glorious past.

When the Northerner ruled, former president the late Umaru Yur’Adua, it balanced the equation that give this nation of 100 million plus some semblance of a democratic rule. But now, national elections that are set 2011 are already unsettling nerves. Loud whispers prescribe that for this equation to remain balanced, for the spirit of equality to prevail, the current president Jonathan Goodluck should ideally appoint a northerner as his vice president.

Goodluck  is a native of the largely christian south. Moreover, Yur’Adua’s presidency that had ended so prematurely was in fact the “turn for the northerners to rule” according to a silent memorandum among the religiously, ethnic and economically polarized polar halves of the worlds 17th ranked oil producing nation in terms of number of barrels produced per day.

People are who they are..

By the people for the people is the answer most would offer when asked to define democracy. Maybe if Nairobi could look at London it would realize that constitution making is a continuous process that never comes to an end. A phenomenon that lies at the dynamic process of crafting a social contract between actors at play at a given time of a civilization. In doing so, just maybe, the impending bull fight, greater than the recreational ones pitting champion bulls against each other that are staged in the western parts of the country as a mark of cultural identity , would be averted.

Maybe in Nairobi, Lagos can find an example that will urge that Nigeria’s political situation should not be allowed to degenerate, A worldview that should be nourished by steadfast determination to avert a scenarios similar to the  Kenyan post poll violence. As Luis Moreno Ocampo, ICC’s chief prosecutor noted at a press conference in Nairobi’s Serena hotel, in one an a half year, there will be about 15 elections in the region. Kenya has to send a signal that when you commit crimes against humanity you go to the Hague. In all this maybe London could look at Abuja and Nairobi and see the heart of the issue: that maybe, its simply a people problem, the trouble with democracy.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment.