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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Democracy is not Frail, but it's not for the faint of heart, either

The uproar over Ukranian elections has taken another nasty twist with the revelation that the (U.S. backed) opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin (presumably by his political opponents) at some point before the contested presidential election.[Russians suspected-see update at the end of this post. Ed.] The Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe (a distant second--Russia being the first) and its democratization will most certainly reverberate in neighboring states south of the Black Sea where governance seems destined for reform in the coming decade. I wish the Ukranians well with their rerun of the election on December 26th. I deeply respect by their courage and success in challenging the results of the first election.

Sometimes poetry says it best:

A Time of Rehearsals

Our every love is more stifling and close
death's needle embroiders this linen and smoke
return the moon so it will fall on a familiar face
make it tremble like an artist      cry like a murderer over him

this is the season of rehearsals      trees appear on stage
the blood of an old actor flows November November
o naive spectator you believe this death is invented
it is always invented      so the theatre says

descend on the now dying orchard reborn in spring
onto the bare withered shoulders of an old mountain
and a familiar face that turned pale before you
art puts on its wide underscored make-up

this is the time of rehearsals     the text of a great drama
the overworked lips of the prompter blaze in the dark
let the roles we choose not be cursed
we are like late blooming trees ready for winter

--Natalka Bilotserkivets
Translated from the Ukrainian by Michael M. Naydan & Dzvinia Orlowsky

Democracy occurs when free elections decide the composition of the government and the extent of their power, "free" being the operative concept and "elections" being the means. When elections are compromised, the electorate, having become attached to the concept of having an influence on their government, tends to erupt in protest. "The idea triumphant is on display right now in Ukraine -- as it was in Poland and Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries these last 15 years."-- Richard Reeves from The Issue of the Year is Democracy . He goes on to say:
Again and again, democracy has shown the power to prevent the meanest and bloodiest of wars, civil wars. It has also demonstrated its non-political benefits more often than not -- witness the decline of the Soviet Union under communism, or compare the wealth and future of democratic India and authoritarian Pakistan.
I still believe the U.S. 2000 election was compromised, but I don't believe that election error or malfeasance occurred to a decisive extent in 2004. And yet, U.S. democracy is under pressure from those unhappy with the results. Are these complaints--which come from elements with which I tend to empathasize--about elections being too free? The people have spoken but they are stupid?

Stupid people deserve stupid leaders, but what about the rest of us? The majority of Americans are stupid? Reeves gets into this last question in his op/ed, which I encourage you to read.

You bet I don't like President Bush claiming that he has political capital to spend with a margin of only 3 million votes. You bet I don't like the gleeful conservatives planning a rampage of social security reforms. You bet I don't like the shrinking separation of church and state in this "value-driven" administration. But democracy itself will address these issues over time. That is its nature. Even when wounded, democracy, with a life of its own, eventually and sooner rather than later, tends to ameliorate even vile differences. It'll take a lot of work, but we've got our sleeves rolled up.

I like this, again, it's from Reeve's essay:
Democracy, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, is still the worst form of government -- except for all the others that have been tried.

UPDATE: Suspicions Cast on Russia After Poisoning
...Associates of Yushchenko speculate that Russian or former KGB agents may have been involved in poisoning the candidate. Yushchenko fell ill in September and has campaigned with his face disfigured by what doctors who treated him in Austria said last week was poisoning by dioxin.


Supporters say Yushchenko's opponents wanted to kill him or sideline him from the race against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and the Kremlin, which holds great influence in the former Soviet republic...

// posted by Ellen @  00:40   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.

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