OP-EDS

  /  

November 12, 2002

Look at recent world elections

The months of October and November 2002 were doomed to be a critical period for global politics since elections were supposed to be held in four countries, each one of them having its own pivotal role. Let's go over these election results chronologically.

The elections in Pakistan were potentially the least interesting and insignificant, simply because Pakistan is actually not a democracy. It is ruled by a military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, whose power does not emanate from the people, but rather, from his military prowess. For all intents and purposes, Musharraf is a staunch Western ally and an alleged modern reformer, meaning that he is supposedly industrializing and developing his country.

In "Islamists on brink of power in Pakistan," (www.guardian.co.uk /international/story/0,3604,834259,00.html) the Guardian claimed that the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) are supposed to form a coalition government, following the Islamists' strong showing at the polls. This sounds like an odd coalition, indeed, since Benazir Bhutto's father, who was an ambitious social and economic reformer with serious leftist leanings, was overthrown by Zia al-Haq. Haq was clearly a staunch right wing anti-communist, whose timely military takeover proved to be extremely useful in strengthening the U.S.-Pakistani alliance, which was fighting together against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The creation of fundamentalist groups like the Taliban was very much a product of U.S.-Pakistani alliance against the Soviets.

So the leftist Bhutto will form a coalition government with the Pakistani Muslim League; that's the end of the story. Why did the Pakistani people vote for the PML? There is some chance that they did so because they are not confident about the U.S.-led war against terrorism and Pakistan's role in that war. It is likely that some Pakistanis, especially now that they are following the stubborn insistence of the U.S. administration in waging a war against Iraq, misperceived the war against terror as a war against Islam. So that might be why they voted for the PML. Now the more important question: Will their vote change anything? No. We can be confident that Pakistan will remain as a key U.S. ally in whatever action the U.S. government feels like taking.

Elections in Brazil, however, can actually make an impact. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the presidential candidate of the socialist Workers' Party, got 61 percent of the vote in the runoffs. Hurrah for Lula; socialist workers took power in Brazil! Marxist prophecy came true in Brazil? Well maybe…but it looks like the Marxist dream is not coming true at all. Da Silva confirmed well ahead of time that once elected, he would abide by the IMF agreements and most of the things that these agreements entail. He toned down his previous statements about not paying the Brazilian foreign debt, which really is something. If Brazil doesn't pay its debts, we might as well head into another debt crisis. This may be even more severe than the third world debt crisis of 1982, and that will mean some more unsuccessful job searching on our part, as the prospective well-paid workers of the first world. The Brazilian situation did not unfold at all, but we might wake up tomorrow and hear about Brazil seeking a moratorium on its debts, and then all the other international issues will fade as the financial markets plunge into a crisis. Beware Brazil!

Turkey is another one of the IMF's poster-children. As soon as the World Bank hears "help us" cries from the Istanbul Stock Exchange, the IMF lends Turkey a generous ten billion dollars worth of relief packages, only to see the country plunge into yet deeper crises. Indeed, measured in terms of debt-to-GDP ratio, Turkey is far more indebted than the already-exploded Argentina. Yet the economic and financial significance of the Turkish elections was overshadowed by its strategic significance, since all the major political parties pledged allegiance to the IMF programs, but not all of them pledged allegiance to the prospective war on Iraq. The leader of the three-party coalition ruling before the elections, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, was indeed outspoken in his opposition to a second Gulf War, despite, for example, being also outspoken in his support for the war in Afghanistan. However, things have changed.

The Turkish political system is something of a cross between an Italian democracy with its three-party coalitions, and a Latin American junta, with the military exerting influence through the all-powerful National Security Council. This seems to have changed, at least on one front, since the liberal Islamic Justice and Development Party (JDP) garnered a stunning 34 percent of the votes, securing two-thirds of the parliament for its members, and excluding all the other parties, except one, from that parliament. Since Turkish elections have a 10% percent threshold for getting into the parliament, of the 18 parties competing in the elections, only two parties, the liberal Islamic JDP and the liberal Leftist Repubican Peoples Party (RPP), which got 20 percent of the vote, made it into the parliament. The remaining 45 percent of the votes resulted in no representation. After practicing Italian democracy for decades, Turkey is now practicing the American democracy with its bipartisan emphasis. Both JDP, which will rule single-handedly, and the RPP, the sole opposition party represented in the parliament, are tacitly supportive of the prospective war on Iraq. Hence, the Turkish front is clear for the U.S. Army. Perhaps equally important is the liberal Islamists' victory in the elections. Their support for the war against Iraq was the reason for the Turkish chief of staff's visit to Washington D.C. last week, and his public proclamation that the "U.S. is serious about this operation," meaning that "we'd better get on board if we want to have a say in the future partition of Iraq."

The U.S. mid-term elections followed the Turkish elections by three days. As all of you know, though I still can't believe this, the Republicans now have a majority both in House of Representatives and in the Senate, as well as having one of their members as president. Bush's election to the presidency was disputable, with all the Florida recounts and the fact he had fewer popular votes than Gore, but now that the mid-term elections favored his party, those old accounts will be closed—forever. Now the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush triumvirate may march towards their goals in Iraq undeterred. The recently passed U.N. resolution can only add to their glee. Many people, myself included, have been giving warnings about the U.S. becoming an empire, abandoning its republican democratic heritage and allegiance to international institutions and law, deploying troops wherever Rumsfeld wishes, and seizing the resources of any country that Cheney wants. Is it time for us to shut up now? Shut up and let the first republic, the republic of Jefferson and Washington, Lincoln and FDR, slide towards imperial restructuring, increasingly seen by the international public as exercising unrestricted aggression? I don't know. What I know is that democracy favored the empire and not the republic, at least in the U.S.