Ouedraogo: Is democracy for all?

Fabrice Ouedraogo

Is democracy for all nations?

I have been pondering that question for quite some time now. There seems to be a push for the ideology of democracy to be adopted by everyone — on the international political platform that is — by every country or nation claiming such system; even the most unorthodox regimes.

Democracy — largely influenced by the U.S. — seems to be the only form of government people around the globe view as legitimate. And there comes the question: How can a system so unique and authentic to one be applicable to all?

Let’s take it back for a bit. Democracy rooted in ancient Greece has evolved in different states, taken several shapes and customs and became very popularized when 13 states in America decided to form a union based on the principles of democracy. The United States of America upholds the main principles of democracy that include: civil and political rights; freedom and fair elections; and accountability, as characterized by the definition of democracy. This delineation of democracy fits the cap of the American family, its people, their way of life, their moment of struggles and joys.

How can you take this uniquely crafted system and replicate it in different nations with unlike sets of belief, mentality and culture? How can you put in the forefront the ideology of freedom as the base foundation of a democracy without considering when freedom should be restricted? Like a friend of mine said, “Freedom is about options,” and those options to do things usually apply to particular public issues keen to that of a specific society and encountered by its people. Thus, what freedom may be to one should not be directly reflected on another’s, given a variation of those options; however, liberty or non-suppressing ways within a societal boundary is indispensable.

In addition, democracy when talked about on mainstream appears as this flawless system — as eating a fish without worrying about those minuscule bones getting caught in your throat.

Actually, one disadvantage of democracy is that it can be a tyranny of the majority. Meaning, when you have two candidates running for a position, usually a minimal 51 percent of the votes by one candidate is the breaking point dictating the winner or loser. What about the other 49 percent of people who voted for the loosing candidate; 49 percent is quite a considerable number of people who would just have to be in accordance with the result. This is often called majoritarian democracy, the one that the U.S. government practices.

Moreover, one reason why most developing countries are facing constant political instability around the world is due to the pressuring salesmanship of the ideology of democracy to such relatively young governments by powers of the west, often measuring government efficiency in using their own criteria of democracy as a benchmark.

To me, a legitimate government does not have to be labeled as democratic as long as the government genuinely represents the interest of its people: active governance and engagement with the populace along with a considerable sense of transparency and oversight, and then delivering concrete results. The kind of genuine vested interest a parent would have in his or her child, or the adoption of a certain way of governing fitting people’s mentality and their ways while tackling issues faced by the nation as a whole; as opposed to doing things the Roman’s way. Leave what the Romans do to Romans. That’s how a nation can find true harmony in itself.

In the light of the current civil revolutions being observed in Tunisia and Egypt; the formation of potentially a new country of South Sudan; the rebuilding of Haiti and Iraq; the power struggle in the Ivory coast; a transition to a sort of government for the people that addresses their needs and issues is what should be sought as opposed to loosely claiming democracy.