Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

France and the Crisis of Democracy

France and the Crisis of Democracy

Tuesday, 11 December, 2018 - 09:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
The fires, looting, vandalism and confrontation between the police and protesters for around two weeks in France are not surprising even though peaceful and legitimate means in the democratic system, including changing the government, are available. However, this did not convince thousands of protesters!

In France, they are blaming the Russians for standing behind the wave of incitive fake accounts that pushed the angry public to the streets. They called on US President Donald Trump to stop influencing the French public opinion because he was quick to criticize and condemn Macron and his government.

Have the Russians really infiltrated the French youths’ minds? Have they done so as they were previously accused of interfering in European, as well as American elections? Is it believable that Trump has all this influence?

Even without the online conspiracy theories, chaos contradicts with the values of democratic practice. It contradicts the concept that the ballot box is the judge between the people. It is through elections and a majority vote that a president is chosen and a government is formed. Chaos of course contradicts with the restrictions of freedom of expression that only guarantees the right to peaceful protest and rejects dictating stances by force.

France is the country of revolutions, and the street is once again reviving the controversy about the concept of the choice of governance by the majority, which is the pillar of the western governance system. The Paris uprising coincided with another battle: the vote on Brexit at the oldest parliament in the world, Westminster. The majority of the British people voted for exiting the EU, but most politicians fear that committing to the result of the popular referendum will harm higher interests and Britain’s future. Despite that, the people have the final say and the majority want to leave the union.

According to the concept of majority rules, Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency with 66 percent of the votes. However, around 100,000 of the Yellow Vest protesters forced him to repeal his decisions and they succeeded. He backed down on taxes and raising the prices of fuel. Despite this however, the chaos continued. The same thing pretty much happened with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she imposed the poll tax and protesters took to the streets of London to oppose the move. She said at the time: “Elections are once and not every day. They elected me to make decisions.” In the end, they made her resign before finishing her term.

The system in the US is presidential and therefore, the president is the least vulnerable to instability and he can only be impeached if he commits constitutional violations or felonies punishable by law.

Democracy has come a long way and improvements have been made to it. As an ancient theory, legislators made many amendments to it to end allegation that it is a dictatorship that is practiced by the majority. What are the rights of the weaker categories in society? Many legislations that were introduced contradict the democracy of the ballot box and the concept of the majority’s governance, such as imposing women’s, ethnic and religious rights, in order to protect them from the dominance of the ruling majority.

Today, there is a new problem as public opinion is no longer the opinion of the people, but it can be directed by parties that want to change the rules of the game, such as foreign powers. An angry minority that thinks the solution is in the street can also flip the formula and thwart the decisions of the majority’s “ruler.”

Major democratic countries often lecture small or developing nations that have limited capabilities and experiences, asking them why they don’t give an outlet to all movement and opinions. Today, these ancient societies are themselves no longer bear leaving social media networks open to all foreign ideas.

Ever since the end of the American elections two years ago and up until today, there have been suspicions about foreign influence and in the elections results as well. The open democratic game has become costly politically.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks