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Rethinking Democracy

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Two decisions on Tuesday, one in the UK and the other in the US would have warmed the hearts of those concerned about the dictatorial tendencies prevalent in our so-called democracies.Nancy Pelosi’s announced launching of an impeachment inquiry into the leadership of President Trump might have come later than expected but hopefully will stifle or crush the maniacal ravings of one who backed by demonic supporters dares to claim that as president he could not, while in office, be prosecuted for any crimes committed. Evangelical bigots see him as ordained by God, a sort of mini-god, it seems. By packing the “Justice System” with “ideological” bedfellows and silencing Republican members of Congress he has come very close to unhinging the US system of checks and balances, perhaps the most admirable thing about its version of democracy. With Republicans in control of the Senate and having been “stupored” by the madness of the White House, one isn’t sure how far the impeachment process will go. In the UK Lady Justice Hale’s delivery of the unanimous verdict of the Supreme Court declaring that PM Johnson’s advice to Her Majesty, the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful seemed to have stopped him in his tracks, a decision that meant more for the rule of law than for Brexit. Before this paper reaches the street, we will have known his next move. Unlike the US, the UK does not have a written constitution but one that has evolved over time with its common law and its particular norms and mores.

We always believed that the British Westminster system and the US system were the fountains of democracy and looked askance at other systems of government. We mocked leaders like Castro and Mao Zedong whom the western press labelled ageing “dinosaurs”. There was so much hypocrisy involved. Among the leading candidates for the presidency of the US are Joe Biden aged 76 and Bernie Sanders 78. President Trump is 73. In the US which unlike the UK is not a first past the post system, the President is elected not by majority vote but by the Electoral College. Wyoming, one of the smallest US states with a population of 579,315 sends two representatives to the Senate, the same number as California with a population of 39,536, 653. The system is unabashedly corrupt with huge obstacles manufactured to prevent minorities and the indigenous people from voting.

At home we have an absurd and ludicrous system where a legal challenge to the general elections of 2015 is still held up in Court. Does this make sense? Should election challenges not be given priority? And we call this nonsense democratic!  One of the significant players in the US and UK systems is public opinion led by a vibrant media, dubbed the Fourth Estate. Informed public opinion is the hallmark of any democracy. But we fail terribly here. Our media seems to misunderstand its role and obviously does not recognise its power. The fact that there is not a Media association in SVG tells its own truth. There is markedly an absence of checks and balances of any kind in our system. To listen to and follow the actions of our leaders is to recognise mini dictators. One even calls himself the “Top Dawg”. Misinformation and sheer gossip rock our system. We sell our votes, cheaply most times without a pricking of conscience and then sit idly by waiting on hand outs. This is what we have become 40 years after the recovery of our independence. It’s shocking. Chatoyer would have been ashamed! 

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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