segunda-feira, 8 de julho de 2013
Gideon Rachman: Freedom and democracy can become enemies
Artigo bem interessante e revelador sobre a relação dos liberais com a democracia em alguns países. O comportamento não é nenhum pouco diferente dos liberais do grande bananão que como àqueles mencionados no artigo, não tinham votos e por isto eram obrigados a recorrer aos militares para derrubar politicos que não eram do grado deles. Essa parece ser a sina de alguns dos liberais em alguns paises: um liberalismo sem povo, uma democracia de fachada.
The words freedom and democracy seem to be yoked together – like gin and tonic or Laurel and Hardy. In the rhetoric of many western politicians, the two words are used almost interchangeably. Promoting his “freedom agenda” in 2003, President George W Bush hailed the “swiftest advance for freedom in the 2,500-year story of democracy”.
But the current political upheavals in Egypt show that freedom and democracy are not always the same thing. They can sometimes be enemies. Egyptian liberals who backed the military coup against President Mohamed Morsi justified their actions because they believed that the Muslim Brotherhood government, although elected, was threatening fundamental freedoms.
It is true that queues for petrol, the rising price of food and the sense that security was breaking down in Egypt were crucial in bringing millions of anti-Morsi demonstrators on to the streets.
But it is also true that key members of the Egyptian liberal movement were enthusiastic supporters of the ouster of an elected government. The liberals argued that Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood were riding roughshod over the courts, intimidating the media, failing to protect the rights of women and minorities, and introducing an increasingly Islamist tone to public life – with the promise of more to come. The fear was that the very democratic freedoms that had given the Muslim Brotherhood its chance could not be guaranteed under the rule of a party that ultimately believes that it gets its instructions and authority from God – not the voters.
The Egyptian problem is not unique. In Turkey, secular liberals have been demonstrating against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development party, or AKP. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr Erdogan can point to a record of solid, economic success. And yet some of the complaints of the Istanbul demonstrators are similar to those heard in Cairo. They accuse the Turkish government of eroding civil liberties, undermining the courts, intimidating journalists and supporting a creeping Islamisation that threatens the freedoms of secular Turks – whether it is the right to drink beer or to dress “immodestly”.
Like the Brotherhood, the AKP in Turkey has responded to the complaints of liberals by pointing to its electoral mandate.
It is tempting for outsiders to assume that this clash between democracy and freedom is a problem unique to Muslim countries with Islamist political parties. But that is not true. In Sri Lanka at the moment, an elected government is busily undermining the independence of the courts and the freedom of the press. And, in recent years, popular demonstrations against the illiberal acts of an elected government have also been witnessed in Moscow and in Bangkok.
In Russia, Thailand, Turkey and Egypt part of the problem seems to be the gap between a relatively affluent and educated urban elite that finds itself outvoted by the rest of the country – albeit with some ballot-rigging in the Russian case. Once in power, an elected populist with authoritarian instincts – such as President Vladimir Putin or Mr Erdogan – can trample on freedoms cherished by the urban middle-classes, while appealing to the “real” nation, out in the small towns or countryside.
Such actions undermine the common western assumption that the basis for all other freedoms is the vote. In fact, the west’s own history suggests that the vote can be the last freedom that is won – not the first.
In Britain, respect for the independence of the courts and the freedom of the press were largely established by the 18th century. But it was not until 1928 that all men and women over the age of 21 were guaranteed the vote. Throughout the Victorian era, it was conventional wisdom that basic levels of property and education were necessary before a citizen should be allowed to vote. When the franchise was widened in 1867, one British Conservative argued that school reform must now be an urgent priority, remarking gloomily – “we must educate our masters”.
Such thinking is now regarded as antiquated and indefensible in the west. But it may strike a chord with the emerging middle classes in much of the developing world. Western commentators have long predicted that a rising Chinese middle class would demand democracy. But, in fact, many affluent Chinese seem to fear that “chaos” would be unleashed if the peasantry were given an equal voice in the running of the country.
Egyptian liberals, who are living with the effects of mass democracy in a society where about 40 per cent of the electorate is illiterate, might sympathise. Given the influence of the mosques and religious television channels, Egypt’s poor are likely to continue voting for Islamist parties – if they are given the chance.
Yet while the case of Egypt suggests that democracy can, on occasion, undermine other cherished freedoms, events in Cairo are also demonstrating that it is impossible to have a “liberal coup”. Once you overthrow an elected government you are in the business of repression. And that means censorship, rounding up political opponents and, quite often, shooting people in the streets. Democracy and freedom are not the same thing. But overthrowing a democracy tends to lead to the same, sad destination.