Editorials

The changing face of democracy

Following the advent of globalization, the Great Recession of 2008 and a dip in the economic prospects of countries around the world, voters in democracies began a retreat from supporting established political groupings blaming the free transfer of capital, goods and services across national frontiers for their economic woes.

Old political loyalties gave way to chauvinistic nationalism.

In growing numbers voters gravitated toward candidates who reinforced their belief that the influence and leadership of established majority populations were being unjustly threatened by large scale immigration and the assimilation of multiple cultures. This was identified as the way forward to better.

Governments and leaders began to be replaced with alacrity. In some corners of the Commonwealth it has become difficult to keep up with the names of new prime ministers and of governing parties. Britain has had three prime ministers since 2015; Australia has had six prime ministers since 2010 and Jamaica has had five since 2006. Some of these individuals have occupied the office on a number of different occasions.

Both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are expressions of the global trend.

Boris Johnson’ rise to the national leadership in the United Kingdom lays squarely on his championship of Brexit resulting from resentment of foreign workers and European Union regulations.

The twice divorced flamboyant former mayor of London was elected leader of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom on Tuesday and took up the reins of government on Wednesday.

The Conservative party’s slimmest of a majority in Parliament has not dampened Johnson’s enthusiastic belief in his own ability to return the United Kingdom to a time in history when no one dared mess with Britain. He claims that anyone betting against Britain will “lose their shirts”.

Prior to the 2016 elections in the United States of America, Trump, also twice divorced, with no political experience, snapped up the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency and then un-expectantly was elected president. He did this on a promise to ‘Make America Great Again’ by building a wall to keep undesirable migrants out and generally disassociating from globalization developments in trade, on climate change and indeed on defense.

In Brazil, a self-styled political outsider on his third marriage was elected president.

In Italy, a right-wing law professor with no political experience was chosen as prime minister.

In Spain, three elections in five years are yet to produce a stable majority government.

In India, the electoral success of Hindu nationalists, Narendra Modi, who recently led his party to a second straight election victory in the world’s largest democracy, can also be linked to the fears of the Hindu majority over their perceived lack of influence in the secular Indian National Congress Party which has held a near monopoly on governments of India predating independence.

In the Philippines, the 2016 election of the controversial Rodrigo Duterte as president shocked many internationally particularly as he continues an all out war against illicit drugs including inviting vigilantism and excusing extra-legal action against those believed to be criminals. Notwithstanding, he continue to maintain high approval ratings among the population.

In the Caribbean, the Barbadian electorate fired the governing Democratic Labour Party wholesale and gave every seat in Parliament to the Barbados Labour Party led by Mia Motley, the first woman to lead Barbados.

And at home, in four consecutive elections, the Bahamian electorate has changed its government; believing in often exaggerated promises promoted during political campaigns which then prove too expensive, and in reality impossible, to implement over the course of a single term.

Electorates have become impatient.

Governments are chosen as if from a speed dating roster with expectations and demands for the kind of instant gratification obtained from fast food, electronic mail and rapid transportation. The infirmities that result from too much fast food, no less than the hacking and spam associated with electronic mail and the rising casualty count from fast transportation should caution people in search of rapid results. Sadly, that is not the case.

Fear of all things foreign and a petulant demand for instant gratification are the new musts in democracies it seems.

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