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Author Topic: Is Europe Still A Democracy?  (Read 526 times)

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Offline White WolfTopic starter

Is Europe Still A Democracy?
« on: October 25, 2015, 11:40:52 PM »
With lots of stuff in the news lately about elections and so forth, I've had a real heaviness in my heart that I wanted to exercise and get some other people's opinions on.

As the title of the thread says, I genuinely don't know if Europe is a democracy anymore, and it scares the shit out of me.

The roots to this go back quite a long while, and the list of examples I could cite would have me writing for days on end, but as much as I can I'll try to parse my thoughts down to the most salient examples.

--I'm Irish, and generally speaking I have a positive view of the European Union - or, rather, what the EU *COULD* be, not under any circumstances what it increasingly looks like it really is. Twice in recent history, as per a quirk of our constitution that requires a referendum for any change to the constitution, the Irish have voted down EU treaty changes (first of all Nice, and then Lisbon). Both times, the EU simply told us to vote again - albeit behind the excuse that we just didn't "understand" what the vote entailed and so needed to vote again in good faith. In any other situation I would imagine this would be utterly reprehensible - imagine what would happen if Americans elected a president only for Congress to say "You didn't understand the issues; you should try again." What adds to this is that, as far as I understand it, prior to Lisbon becoming a new EUropean treaty, it was rejected in a similar fashion by French and Dutch voters - it was in the wake of this defeat by ballot that the EU reshuffled the constitutional changes they wanted to make into a treaty, so that it could slip through for the most part without recourse to referendum.

--The media - and quite a worrying amount of regular folks besides - seem to have a savage opposition to fundamental tenets of democracy. This is most notable with center-left parties all over the EU - bear in mind, first of all, while I probably hold to a fair few center-left ideals myself I'm absolutely not a socialist. I don't like Syriza, though their treatment at the hands of Europe and the press is an example worth noting. But I'll get to them. First and foremost we have media outlets of every vein - from Reuters to The Economist - making much of this new term, "populist." "Populism" has been the go-to phrase to put down any Eurosceptic party, of either side of the political specturm, and snub them as lunatics and madmen. What's so worrying about this position is that it's being picked up now by regular voters unconnected to the political process or the media, and used as a buzzword to discourage taking a party or their policies seriously - like "terrorist," the word "populist" now creates an instantaneous, negative reaction. But the dictionary definition of "populism" as as follows:

"Populism is a doctrine that appeals to the interests and conceptions (such as hopes and fears) of the general population, especially when contrasting any new collective consciousness push against the prevailing status quo interests of any predominant political sector." basically, the right of people to vote for their own interests above those of the elite. Literally, the right of democracy to trump oligarchy. THIS is what we are being told to fear and loathe? :S And it's a concept repeated everywhere, by publications and politicians alike - anyone who diverges from the economic and political orthodoxy (that is to say, austerity, austerity, austerity, combined with convenient tax breaks for the very wealthy - even though both the IMF and ECB have since admitted this policy is flawed in its entirety) is a "populist" and therefore shouldn't be allowed obtain power.

--We saw this most notably with Greece' Syriza. Now, admittedly, Syriza are awful and haven't a clue what in God's name they're doing - they don't understand how Europe is run, nor do they understand the most basic tenets of politics. So they were going to crash and burn one way or the other. But what is noteworthy is how Europe - and the media - reacted to them. The banks effectively laid siege to Greece, cutting off all lines of credit and starving them out so that they were forced to accept a new austerity regime that, yet again, the IMF expressed its disbelief in. IMF economists were literally saying, this deal does not add up and will not work, and the EU was saying dam the torpedoes, this deal is gonna' happen - and in the ensuing clusterfuck, the blame for everything was laid squarely at the feet of Syriza. They're not blameless, no, but to vilify them in the name of defending an economic model whose own inventors are admitting doesn't work - as the media have done in this regard - is particularly worthy of scrutiny, I would imagine.

--We saw it happen yet again with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in the UK. I don't know if I like the guy, personally, I think he's way too far to the left to be economically viable, but that's irrelevant in the wake of the political and media reaction to him. David Cameron basically went on Twitter and called him a terrorist. Here's a guy who believes, to put it succinctly, that the Labour party should be more than just the exact same party as the Tories - they should offer a left-wing alternative to the Tories' right-wing platform. It's really not much different than that. Will Labour win on that left-wing manifesto? Honestly, no, probably not. But the people were not electing a PM - they were electing a Leader of the Opposition. That is to say, a man who is supposed to be opposed to the current government. And because his policies ACTUALLY are at odds with the government's? THe media has CRUCIFIED him - he's a danger, a menace, a devil in disguise. How dare the Opposition have a different policy package to the government?? Who does he think he is??

It's honestly deeply unsettling - the implication one gets from it is that parties are no longer allowed stray from a very narrow spectrum of acceptable politics - those politics, of course, invariably set and decided on by the European Central Bank and IMF. It becomes sort of a Chinese model of democracy - we get to vote for our local leaders, sure, but they're all vetted and pre-approved by the faceless men in suits at the top of the hierarchy. Europe, effectively if not literally, has become a one part state, where every electable party has had their entire policy platforms written for them by the banks.

--But it got its most egregious with the recent Portuguese elections, where the incumbent right-wing government were defeated by a coalition of left-wing parties boasting over 50% of the vote...and Portugal's President, the man charged with approving the new government, reacted by going on TV and saying in so many words that any party that defied Europe wasn't allowed to form a government. Thus, he handed the reins of government back to the ousted Prime Minister, in the name of economic stability.

This is...devastatingly blatant. This is literally the example I cited earlier - imagine Donald Trump gets in next year, and Americans are told, sorry, he's unacceptable to the Federal Reserve. We're gonna' give Obama one more term (it's obviously an imperfect example given the US' term limits, but you see what I'm getting at). In America, it wouldn't be stood for - there would be an armed march on Washington. In hasn't even gone reported on in most media circles. We're almost supposed to accept that this is the way things are - there is only one political and economic agenda that is acceptable - anything else is extremist lunacy and must be disregarded.

I would go so far as to earnestly say, it doesn't matter if the president has a point. It doesn't matter if that government is going to simply blow up the economy for the sake of it and ruin the country - surely, if that's what the Portuguese people voted for, isn't that what should be?

Democracy means rule by the people - that means the people get their way, whatever that may be. As soon as we start saying "Yeah the people get their way, but so long as their way is satisfactory to the people who have the most money," then we're not a democracy. And that, actually, is probably fine - there's an economic argument in there for that sort of thinking, that economically destructive, "populist" parties may do more harm than good and so should be excluded from the political process...

...but then, at the very least, can we stop deluding ourselves by calling our countries "democracies?" 'Cos time and time again we've seen that it's just not true. We CANNOT vote for the candidate we want, and our vote most certainly DOES NOT count, unless the IMF and ECB says it does.

It's disheartening, and frankly frightening that so few Europeans seem to even realise this.

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Re: Is Europe Still A Democracy?
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2015, 07:15:19 PM »
That was one hell of a read. I'm not a politician nor a political analyst. I only have a very basic understand of the different forms of Government, especially since there is in reality many, MANY different iterations and representations and conglomerations, all so confusing. But I do know that Democracy isn't the ONLY beneficially acceptable form of rule out there. As long as nations experience all the civil liberties and personal freedoms the western world already does, then what really does it matter how that nation is governed?

imagine what would happen if Americans elected a president only for Congress to say "You didn't understand the issues; you should try again."

That would be so typical of a Republican oriented Congress actually. Like a last resort tantrum if an Election didn't go their way.

This is literally the example I cited earlier - imagine Donald Trump gets in next year, and Americans are told, sorry, he's unacceptable to the Federal Reserve. We're gonna' give Obama one more term. In America, it wouldn't be stood for - there would be an armed march on Washington.

I don't exactly get that example as I don't understand why the Federal Reserve would have any authority to dictate who attains the Oval Office, but I do get the point. I don't know about "armed" march, but Americans do certainly love to get pissed off and gather in large, destructive groups.

Offline Strident

Re: Is Europe Still A Democracy?
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2015, 04:39:35 PM »
The EU simply has no democratic accountability.

It is made up of several parts:
The European commission, the council, and the parliament.

Of these, only the parliament is elected. However the parliament can't actually make any laws. They get laws put in front of them by other parts of the EU, like the commission, and they vote on them.

The weird thing is, that the supposed "opposition* note the same way 80% of the time. The labour and conservatives etc. They all vote the same way, and it's nearly always a yes vote. Only the real objectors, like ukip, ever vote any different.

And if, for some weird reason, legislaton is rejected, it can simply be put straight back in to be voted for again on a different day and the yes vote secured.

This is an absolute sham of democracy. And it's an organisation which already trumps national law in many areas, and is well on its way to having its own army.

It is run almost entirely for the benefit of billionaire lobby groups and 0.1% what is absolutely staggering to me is that the centre left (and even  the hard left with some notable exceptions like the sadly departed Tony Benn and Bob crow) almost ALWAYS come down on the side of being in favour of the EU.

All my most ultra left green voting friends love the EU. I find this utterly baffling. If ever there was an organisation run by the elite for the benefit of the elite it's the EU.

There is the potential, 20 years hence, for the EU to become seriously sinister. Let's hope we wake up before then.

Offline White WolfTopic starter

Re: Is Europe Still A Democracy?
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2015, 06:15:11 AM »
You stumbled exactly onto something I've found fascinating (if unsettling) - that opposition to EU membership is written off as some far right, xenophobic nationalism, when in fact there could reasonably speaking be nothing more liberal.

Here in Ireland that takes a particularly perverse tone, one that may have significance for you as well (assuming your Location is accurate and you are indeed English, haha) - Sinn Féin, who for much of its existence served simply as the political wing of the Provisional IRA, is now pro-Europe. So a party which spent decades directing its members to bomb, shoot and maim based on a pretty flimsy constitutional issue concerning only like a tiny portion of the island is now happily sitting on its hands and grinning at the fact that ALL of the island has now ceded, in absolute, its sovereignty to a foreign body far less democratic and far less accountable than the House of Commons :S

It really makes you wonder - what is it the EU has on everybody? What amount of cajoling (or bribery...?) do they have to carry out to get the likes of the IRA to stand down and say "Yeah, sure, that whole "Ireland for the Irish" thing was just a bit of fun. We're totally Europeans."

What you said about the Tory/Labour divide also chimes with me. Whether or agree or disagree with Jeremy Corbyn's policies, people have to at least accept that at least Labour is now an "OPPOSITION" party again :S The perfect case in point was some Labour MP recently who gave a speech to a Labour youth group at a university, where he basically said Labour had to be taken back from Corbyn and his supporters. The article I read this in went on to give a recent voting record for the MP in question - he had voted in favour of welfare cuts and tax increases with the Tories all through the past few years.

This guy isn't a Labour politician :S He's a god damn right-wing infiltrator :S

And I'm not saying that as somebody who is particularly left-wing or whatever - all I'm saying is that surely the party that is opposed to government should make it their business to OPPOSE the government? When you have Labour MPs rebelling against their own leadership just so they can get back to the business of voting for every economic policy the Tories have, that's not a functioning parliamentary democracy. It's controlled opposition by any other name.

It's the same in Ireland - our two "main" parties, the ones who've historically always formed a government, are really only divided by the role their supporters played in our Civil War back in the 1920s. Fine Gael, the incumbent government, formed out of the pro-government side; Fianna Fáil, the previous party and now the largest opposition party at present, formed out of the Republican side. As a result, now that Euronomics has become the only thing national governments are allowed talk about anymore, both are basically identical - they spend their time in opposition calling out everything the government does and attacking them over every tax increase and welfare cut, and then they get into government and start doing exactly the same thing anyway. Now that we're approaching an election next year, and the left-wing parties (who, it must be stressed, are all incompetent and insane in their own right - Ireland has no genuinely competent political party to choose from) are slowly crawling up the polls, there is talk of an election pact between the two historical rivals - Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. It's sort of unsettling, because they are basically the same party anyway except for vague historical divisions, an election pact between them would probably ensure they reign in perpetuity, and Ireland never has another government again.

At the end of the day I'm throwing my moral support behind the Brexit campaign - naively, I feel that is the UK should leave Europe, it may create a clamour in Ireland for the same thing (though I won't hold my breath - the Irish electorate is hardly the brain trust...)