THE word democracy is on everyone’s lips, from embattled Zelensky to newly re-elected Macron. The reality is much harder to nail down: any manifestation of that ideal of governance – one person, one vote, and fair representation for all. Post Covid emergencies, you have to ask if it exists anywhere any more.
Take Sunday’s run-off of the French presidential election. The procedures are broadly in line with democratic principles: registered citizens over 18 are eligible, voting is voluntary, voting is in person with proof of ID and any proxy voting rigorously controlled, the ballot is secret and votes are manually counted.
With a turnout of just under 72 per cent, incumbent Macron was re-elected by a margin of approximately 17 percentage points. But it was a much lower majority than last time, leading the French media to decry a ‘victory without triumph’. Le Figaro has even asked ‘Who can possibly believe that (Macron’s win) is rooted in popular support?’ while the latest opinion polls show that a majority of voters will not support Macron in the forthcoming parliamentary elections in June. Conspiracy theorists mutter about the likelihood of electoral fraud, claiming blatant evidence of the powers-that-be fiddling by a few points where they feared they might lose. Given the closeness of the predicted vote in earlier polls, Le Pen might have been expected to lose by only a few percentage points in an ‘honest’ election. But as ever the Globalist establishment has hailed Macron’s win as a victory for a more sovereign European Union. Meanwhile, Macron’s riot police shot dead two protesters in Paris.
Elsewhere, election results are routinely questioned. The 2020 US presidential result is still fiercely argued over. Many still claim that the result was manipulated to hand victory to the loser, citing alleged interference with ballot papers, inaccurate counting, untrustworthy Dominion machines, and problematic mail-in voting. The ballot box is no longer sacred.
There are doubts about variations in democratic systems. ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP) may result in the seats allocated being wildly out of line with the numbers of votes cast. For example, in the 2015 UK election, UKIP won 3.8million votes while the Greens secured only 1.1million; both ended up with one MP. Proportional Representation (PR) can end up with a parliament of multiple minorities, causing decision-making to be cumbersome, if not impossible. And while FPTP winners are in theory accountable to their constituencies, this fails without any right to recall.
Even more problematic is the manifesto – a party’s promises made to get into power, but in no way binding once in Westminster. The only sanction is the potential for being turfed out at the next election, but by then the damage is done. As Thomas Sowell has written, ‘It is hard to imagine a more stupid or dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.’
Even going through the motions of democratic governance is, alarmingly, no longer a given in Western countries. The Covid experience has demonstrated that any perceived ‘emergency situation’ may enable a government to institute governance by emergency powers, including transformative legislation and unprecedented restrictions, with a minimum of Parliamentary oversight. Then there is the relentless creep of supra-national government, as exemplified by the ‘democratic deficit’ of the EU Commission and its aim to supersede all member states’ national governments; and recent decisions by the globalist organisations such as the WHO to impose whole-world control in certain circumstances. You have to wonder why anyone bothers to vote at all.
But wait! All is not lost. Coinciding with the French election last Sunday, there also took place one of the last bastions of open direct democracy – the Landesgemeinde (cantonal assembly) in Appenzell Innerrhoden East Switzerland.
On the last Sunday of April – since 1403! – the local electorate holds its open-air assembly. It starts off with a church service then at noon the cantonal court and its officers march to the town square, led by the Harmonie Appenzell band playing the Slow March. It is colourful and traditional with flags and uniforms from the ‘Junkers of the Seven Rhodes’ and locals dressed up in their best Trachten costumes. The proceedings involve the election of representatives, the public taking of oaths, and then voting on the constitutional and financial business of the day.
You get a flavour of the event here :
Is this any more democratic than its more institutionalised versions elsewhere? The ballot is not secret but involves a show of hands, in the style of the old trade union meetings. And it is only within the last 30 of its 600-year history that it has no longer been only ‘one man one vote’, since Appenzell granted votes for women only in 1991. While yellow registration cards now confirm voter eligibility, it is still acceptable for men to show instead their ceremonial sword or Swiss sidearm (a bayonet). It is estimated that only around 20 per cent of eligible voters actually turn out.
When the day’s business is concluded everyone repairs to the local hostelries for a knees-up and a thigh-slap to music from the traditional oompah band. So that’s democracy, is it? A grand day out, and don’t forget your bayonet. Democracy as beer and carnival. Well, at least they all got a say in appointing the new finance minister.
In search of a genuine democratic hearing, we seem to be reduced to Together and Alan Miller, who in his latest video appeal calls on us all to speak out against the globalists’ takeover – a rallying cry for solidarity to pressure our elected representatives and institutions. But is anyone really listening? Is that all we have left?
Perhaps we could start with some real solutions. No representation without taxation would make an interesting debate. Make manifesto promises legally binding. Plus an effective right of recall. Scrap postal voting. A huge cull of bureaucrats, quangos, pseudo charities, the ennobled, and the number of constituencies.
Ronald Reagan used to say: ‘Don’t just do something, stand there’ (though it was not his original joke). I’m reminded of Belgium which functioned for about a year without an effective government at all, and nobody seemed to notice. We could certainly give that a try.