The shortcomings of democracy

Published 20.05.2019 20:18
Updated 22.05.2019 00:12

Great Britain is entering its umpteenth crisis regarding Brexit. Whereas everything seemed to be going smoothly with negotiations in Westminster, the Labour Party has decided to cut the debate short and declared that it would henceforth not collaborate with the Tories for a Brexit. Now what? Prime Minister Theresa May has prepared a third exit scenario that she intends to submit for a parliamentary vote. If she fails this time, she is going to resign. If she went by the examples set by Turkish tradition, it should take her another dozen failures before contemplating a resignation. Anyhow, whether she resigns or not, a "third" Brexit deal has practically no chance of getting through Westminster. The "Brexiteer" wing of the Conservative Party is against it, and the "Europhile" wing of the Labour Party is also against it for different reasons.

Great Britain is also testing the limits of the EU 27's patience. France, which is not the most patient member of the EU when it comes to the British, has already declared that they did not intend to support a delay with multiple repetitions.

The British Parliament, on the other hand, decided that there should be no Brexit without a deal. Therefore, the existing deal, revamped thrice, remains the only way out still on the table. If it is rejected a third time – which is more than probable – there will be no other option than a "no-deal Brexit." Westminster has rejected the latter. So here, we are in a terrible, vicious circle, with no visible solution at the end of the tunnel. The pound's value has dropped hand in hand with the U.K. financial markets. That shows the degree of confidence international finance has in May. Nobody really nurtures great hopes about the capacity of the U.K. government to take care of the whole issue for good.

On the other hand, one of the most iconic Brexiteers, Nigel Farage, who deserted his U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) long ago, is out for blood again. He has come up with a new party. Nobody remembers the name of his party, nor anything about its program; yet, it is still credited with around 30 percent of the votes, well beyond any conventional political party, for the coming European Parliament elections.

That is the cherry on the cake. While struggling to get away from the EU, the U.K. will still have to participate in the coming elections. If Nigel Farage, who has no political vision nor wisdom except to take the U.K. out of the EU at all costs, is credited with 30 percent of the votes, this is not good news for anyone.

This incredible situation of the U.K. shows, as a litmus test, the shortcomings of parliamentary democracy when replaced by direct democracy. It is not by chance that most of the authoritarian or totalitarian regimes tend to govern through plebiscites or referenda. It is always easy to gather a majority around a blunt "yes," even better behind a staunch "no."

Popular masses tend to immediately react when confronting difficult situations. It is perhaps unfortunate, but life does not pose any problems, any choices whose answer is a blunt "no" or a staunch "yes." It is much more complicated than this. Usually a politician or a decision-maker is confronted with two bad, or very bad, alternatives. The dexterity resides in choosing the less hazardous alternative.

This is why representative democracy, debates, negotiations among different political forces and different leaderships are essential. It is vital in acting as a buffer between the functioning of the democratic institutions and the immediate reactions of the human population. Confronted with a reactive referendum, the parliamentary system does not stand much chance. It can also go very sour, as we see in the case of Brexit.

I personally do not think that Brexit will be the "end" of the U.K.; neither will it serve as an example for the populations of the EU. However, we should always remember that an anodyne, totally misplaced, ill-organized, nonbinding referendum has put the best parliamentary democracy in the world in a terrible situation. There goes the "vox populi."

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