The July 2016 Australian federal election was volatile and took days to decide.
Days before, the British electorate voted for BREXIT, despite the overwhelming support of the elite for BREMAIN.
The US Presidential campaign is the most turbulent in history.
Why is there such political volatility in the western world? How did a nation like Australia, with a reputation for political stability, get into this situation of having 5 prime ministers in 5 years and a knife’s edge election?
There is a simple explanation: a lack of respect for the democratic process.
As mentioned earlier, in 5 years, 3 prime ministers were replaced by a backroom party manoeuvres, not by the electorate. When an elected leader stands and falls because of his/her colleagues, rather than the voters, this is NOT democracy. The Australian voters, who elected the Rudd government in 2007, should have had a chance to vote for or against it in the 2010 Federal Election. The same applies to the Abbott government, who was clearly elected in 2013. Mr. Abbott, not Mr. Turnbull, who should have led his party in the 2016 election (the same applies to the Gillard government in 2013).
Contempt shown for the democratic process eventually brings instability
This erosion of democracy is by no means limited to the Australia. No sooner had the ballots been counted in the UK EU Referendum, than left-wing voices were calling for another referendum. Petitions were signed, protesters marched in London, and a lawsuit was launched. If the electorate chose a clear pathway, demands to undo their mandate are anti-democratic.
What is True Democracy?
Most people think that democracy is merely ‘free and fair’ elections. This is an important facet but there is much more to democracy than elections. As one person put it, it is what happens in-between elections that constitutes a democracy.
Here are some of the components then of a truly democratic society:
1. Free and fair elections at regular intervals: ultimately, the people of the nation are the boss and on the most important matters they should be the final arbiters.
2. Rule of law: This is where parliamentary law reigns, not the whim of a leader. Rule of law means Lex (Law) is Rex (King);
3. Human rights: Respect for basic, universally recognised human rights is fundamental for a true democracy. These include freedom of speech, freedom of conscious, freedom of worship and religious freedom;
4. Independent judiciary: The courts properly interprets the constitution; note: justices interpret, they don’t create laws. They should not be controlled by other branches of government;
5. Free and responsible press: The media should not be controlled by the government but also they should be responsible too, seeking to inform, not indoctrinate, society;
6. Separation of powers: the executive, judicial, and legislative branches must have clear boundaries and be free to exercise their constitutional powers (but no more);
7. Balance of power: no branch of government can have too much power. When any branch oversteps its boundaries, instability comes in (this can include military coups);
8. Separation of church and state: this means that both areas are given due respect but neither encroaches on the other. This separation does not mean ‘freedom from religion’ or marginalising religious belief or ethics in the public square.
9. Basic moral foundations: More about this in a subsequent article.
Undermine one, or more, of the above tenets, and true democracy will begin to erode. Failure to uphold the ‘rule of law,’ a muzzled or biased press, activism in the courts, one branch of government overstepping another, suppressing human rights … all these things begin the rollback of democracy. In our day, moral sounding terms like ‘political correctness,’ ‘tolerance,’ ‘fairness doctrine,’ ‘inclusion,’ ‘deconstruction’ and similar phrases have been used to used to undercut one or more of the above democratic freedoms.
When this happens, political instability begins to take over.
In Part 03, we will see how democracy has been undermined over the years.