Speaking at the U.S. Democratic Party’s national Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina at the beginning of September, former President Bill Clinton said, “Democracy does not have to be a blood sport. It can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest.” Increasingly, around the world, Clinton’s belief is being put to the test.
One of the reasons that we publish an Electoral Calendar is that in a democracy, voting matters. Elections help to guide a nation. They reflect the will of the people in choosing how taxes are allocated, what programs will be funded and most important, what direction a nation will take until the next election. The problem, increasingly, is that there are many groups that take part in the democratic process that do not really believe in democracy. They use the electoral process to acquire power in order to destroy the mechanism of democratically elected government. This has been true in nations as diverse as Belarus, Iran, and likely, in the upcoming election in Venezuela.
Second, there are also many groups who don’t necessarily want to destroy democracy but who simply don’t believe in government. They run to occupy seats in parliament in order to obstruct, to act as a permanent protest movement. When the Greens first came to power in many European nations, they functioned as an obstruction, but gradually have become more active participants in the democratic process. The self-proclaimed Tea Party Patriots in the U.S. are another such group.
While the first group is dangerous in the short run, because it can destroy democracy outright, the second group can be far more dangerous in the long run. By subverting government from the inside out, they can destroy faith in government’s ability to act on behalf of the people who thought their votes counted for something. Increasingly and unfortunately, electoral participation in many countries appears to be made up of people and parties antagonistic or skeptical of the democratic process.