Monday, February 28, 2005

DOUBLE WHAMMY FOR DEMOCRACY

I was stuck to news on cable television on Saturday watching out for updates concerning the recent sojourn of U.S. President George W. Bush into Europe. In most recent memory, there has never been a trip by a Head of State of any country that was as eventful and action-packed as this one. Consider this; Bush’s latest trek across the Atlantic had started with his beseeching of the European Union's plan to lift their arms embargo against China and was topped later on by a seemingly intense exchange between him and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on the issue of how democracy in the former U.S.S.R. should be carried on. Apparently, Bush was taking Putin’s handling of democracy in Russia by the horn and reminding him of international complaints against Putin’s recent crackdown on independent media and Russia’s reported sales of arms to Syria. I wonder why President Bush did not mention anything about Russia’s multi-billion arms trade with the Red Dragon, China?

All in all, what caught the most of my attention on that TV news surfing was the moment when President Putin spoke in front of media while Bush was along side him. He said, “Russia chose democracy fourteen years ago. There can be no return to what we used to have before”. Although he made clear that the Russian people had discovered democracy on its own accord and not by any outside influence or pressure.

Hurray for democracy, I say. Have you had any memory of a time when any Russian leader admitted categorically that the former U.S.S.R. is now practicing democracy? I have no remembrance of any that is why Putin’s recent pronouncement have put the final nail in the coffin and at last, it can now be said in absolute terms that communism failed in that part of the world. This is for me both momentous and historic. And democracy wins big this time.

On another front, somewhere in the western part of Africa, the military-backed president of the remotely-known country of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, has just announced that he would be stepping down from his post to give way for the holding of a presidential election there. Now this is a class act. Despite the ugly circumstances surrounding Gnassingbe’s resignation, still it is unheard of in any part of the world. You can say that Joseph Estrada had also stepped down from his executive post but it had to take the betrayal of almost all his officers and henchmen before he finally said quits. President Fujimori of Peru had the same move but he had to leave his country immediately or face certain extinction.

The Togo experience is a little more sublime than any other political sacrifice that we all have heard recently. On February 5 this year, Faure Gnassingbe became president of Togo after the military put him into the "throne" shortly after his father’s death, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who by the way had ruled the small west African state for almost 38 years.

When African Union protested this highly undemocratic institution of Gnassingbe, and after the impositions of economic and social sanctions against Togo by said the union, as well as pressures from the United States and a number of European countries, Gnassingbe decided to step down to give way for a popular voting of the president. He would be one of the candidates in the said upcoming election. Knowing Africa and the character of most of the despots who have ruled the states there, we would have expected extreme antagonism before any resignation happens and possibly, bloody fighting among its people.

But despite Gnassinbe’s military backing, he decided to step down and fight his own battle in the tarmac of a more valid form of institution and that is, by popular election.

Again (considering how African politics usually end up), things may still go so wrong after all in Togo like when heavy fighting mars the upcoming election or if the military takes over later on, yet still I say, that even as we speak, Gnassingbe’s move of stepping down from what appeared to be his birthright (in the light of the queer state of African politics), was a class act by itself and another huge winner for democracy in the world. Maybe some of our congressmen and government executives besieged by BIR’s exploration of their hidden wealth can learn a thing or two from Mr. Gnassingbe.

If we reset the score now, we can say, “two for democracy and zero for socialism”.
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