Lessons in democracy: Ukraine, Brazil, and Tunisia

Lessons in democracy: Ukraine, Brazil, and Tunisia

There is a silent consensus that the outcome of elections do not matter anymore in ‘old Europe’. Elections for the European Parliament and most national elections have become quite humdrum as the differences between centre-right and centre-left are watered down and melded into a sort of mediocrity, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

The logical outcome is the emergence of new protest parties on the far-right, the far-left or the nationalist spectrum. Some will be radical, some focussed on specific issues such as the economy or more autonomy. Protest substitutes for opposition now.

This creates disillusion about politics and the decreasing participation of voters in elections proves it. That is a bad result for democracy.

But there were three interesting elections on Sunday, October 26, outside ’old Europe’.

Ukraine’s parliamentary election was crucial in giving Ukraine's government democratic legitimacy to tackle the crises it faces. A new parliament was essential in providing the government with the support it needs to tackle the difficult tasks of preserving Ukraine’s sovereignty, reforming the economy and tackling issues of governance and accountability in its administration. Administrative reform is crucial to reduce corruption.

Turnout exceeded 70 per cent in the Lviv area in west Ukraine, but reduced gradually towards the east and the Odessa area. Voter participation was more than 50 per cent in total, far exceeding the turnout for elections to the European Parliament.

Lower turnout in the east could be partly due to intimidation. But the east was also the stronghold of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's party.

The outcome is a clear mandate for democratic reform of politics, subject to the rule of law, and support for the strategy of Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. The far-right and far-left have been marginalised.

This pro-European vote is spread over a number of parties and President Poroshenko’s is the strongest with more than 20 per cent. It is now crucial that a working coalition is formed to advance the national interest above party interests.

The election results are a hopeful sign that Ukraine can thrive and move towards a more prosperous future with an entitlement to self-determination.  Even Russia recognised the result.

The final run-off in Brazil’s presidential elections was different.

President Dilma Rousseff was re-elected by the tiniest margin. Brazil suffers from corruption of power and the result disappointed many who had hoped that change could break the culture of patronage and corruption. Dilma Rousseff’s party has won its fourth, uninterrupted term in power.

Walter Russell Mead of The American Interest, a recognised US think - tank Tweeted: ‘Rousseff’s re-election as Brazil's president could allow her Workers’ Party to become a corrupt state within a state’.

Tunisia’s parliamentary elections in Tunisia were efficient and undisturbed, with high voter turnout. This is good news.

Nidaa Tounes, the secular party, took 38 per cent of the vote, while Ennahda, the major Islamic party slipped into second place with some 31 per cent. Although the campaign was emotional, the vote was quiet.

Tunisia is being watched with interest by other North African countries. The result shows a desire for balance, and the two parties will have to establish a coalition government to develop a balanced programme. This is a sign of an emerging and, hopefully, functioning democracy.

Related reports

Ukraine elections could resolve its dependence on Russia and Europe

Rousseff and Neves battle for Brazilian presidential role

Democratic advances set Tunisia aside from its neighbours

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