Monday, February 11, 2008

The Other Face Of Democracy


The other face of democracy
IKIM VIEWS: By IR AHMAD JAIS ALIAS Fellow, Centre for Consultancy and Training, Ikim
I WAS in my hotel room in Bangalore, India, watching the breaking news on CNN concerning the election results in Kenya.

The results put the incumbent president back at the helm, but failed to satisfy the opposition, which claimed the election results were rigged so the previous regime could remain in power.
The opposition refused to accept the results and have put the country in turmoil with street demonstrations, violent protests and ethnic murders.

I was deeply troubled by the news. This was another tragedy unfolding in the name of democracy. In my article in this column last month, I mentioned the tragedy in Pakistan.
What do all these events mean? Why are people killing and fighting each other in the name of democracy?

The victors will always claim that they were elected "democratically" . However, the vanquished also claim their democratic right to protest against the election results, preferring to succumb to undemocratic acts and violence to give voice to their right be heard.

Is this the true face of democracy? For many, democracy means the power of the people to elect a leader. A leader, elected democratically, has the support of the majority of the population.
The question is, does the elected leader really lead? Does he command the population?
In the case in Kenya, with the results almost equally divided, the opposition refused to accept the winner as their leader. As far as the opposition is concerned, democracy has failed to unite the country under a democratically elected leadership.

Things are a bit different in other countries, Thailand, for example. In the 2006 election, Thaksin Shinawatra was returned to power with the overwhelming support of the population.
Unfortunately, his re-election was not well received by the military, another power-broker in that country. The conflict between the democratically elected leader and military erupted into a power struggle that ended in a coup-d'etat.

It now appears that democracy is not always the solution. Even after the people of Thailand have elected a new leader, we still have to wait for the latest developments. Will the military honour the peoples' choice?

The two scenarios above teach us about the importance of educating the population with regard to their rights when choosing a leader.

With proper education, the population will able to make an informed decision, not one merely based on propaganda and political campaigns, or a decision on the basis of emotion.

The population should not allow themselves to be manipulated by ambitious leaders who are willing to sacrifice the lives of their supporters in order to achieve their desires. Nor should the population allow their rights to be removed by force or through undemocratic acts.

The irony is, those who organise and hold protests do so under the banner of democracy. While the elected leader claims to be elected democratically, the dissidents also claim their protests are democratic.

Are we seeing two faces of democracy? Why are people resorting to actions that may kill democracy?

Is the same thing happening in Palestine? Hamas was elected to power by the Palestinian people, but this irked Israel and the West. Now the West, which preaches democracy, has refused to accept the peoples' choice.

With all embargoes and restrictions of movement, and no electricity and water supply to the Gaza Strip, Israel and the West are punishing the Muslims for exercising their democratic rights.
Is this democracy? Why does the West fail to honour the democratically elected leadership in Palestine?

While democratic reforms are being emphasised in Myanmar, Thailand, Pakistan, Kenya and many other countries, why are they keeping quiet with regard to Palestine? Is there another face to democracy?


Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."

(Muttafaq 'alaih)

Ini adalah salah satu dari berbagai riwayat Imam Bukhari.
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