World

Western-style democracy not cure-all medicine

English.news.cn   2011-01-19 17:02:28 FeedbackPrintRSS

by Yu Zhixiao

BEIJING, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- The nearly two-month head-to-head contest for presidency between former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Alassane Outtara isn't likely to come to an end soon.

The subsequent bloody conflicts have severely endangered the country's stability and people's wellbeing.

On Dec. 2, the Ivorian Independent Election Commission declared Outtara the winner of the presidential run-off on Nov. 28, but one day later, the country's Constitutional Commission annulled the result and named Gbagbo the victor instead.

On Dec. 4, both Gbagbo and Outtara were sworn in as president, and Cote d'Ivoire since has been bogged down in a stalemate between two "presidents."

Outtara is overwhelmingly backed by the international community, publicly led by the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and some Western countries.

Gbagbo, however, has shown a staunchly defiant attitude and refused to transfer power to Outtara.

There appear to be two reasons behind Gbagbo's intransigence. First, he enjoys the support of the military and controls judicial departments and the media, which give him an absolute advantage in the face-to-face battle with Outtara, who still shelters in a local hotel. Second, he is bolstered by backers in his traditional stronghold in the country's south.

There is a critical south-north conflict in the country, which is rich in ivory, coffee and cocoa. The bulk of northerners are immigrants or their descendants, many of whom are still blocked from acquiring Ivorian nationality by the Gbagbo administration, which they resent.

The government feared acceptance of the marginalized northerners as Ivorian citizens would have given a big boost to the Outtara camp in the presidential election.

In 1990, under the influence and pressure of Western countries, Cote d'Ivoire imported Western-style democracy and held a multi-party presidential election.

But the country since then has suffered political instability and occasional bloody conflicts.

Two coups occurred in 1999 and 2002. The first ousted then President Henri Konan Bedie, while the second was foiled by President Gbagbo but plunged the country into a north-south civil war, which lasted until 2007.

Over the past two decades, conflict has invariably followed a presidential election at the cost of human lives.

Cote d'Ivoire was a reasonably developed economy in sub-Sahara Africa before 1990, but its economic growth has stagnated and people's living conditions haven't improved noticeably since.

Similar problems plague many African countries. After the Cold War, the majority of African nations practised Western-style democracy, which is characterized by multi-party elections, but many countries have yet to taste the expected fruits.

In the few years since the end of 2007, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mauritania, Guinea and Madagascar have suffered coups or election-related violence. Tunisia is currently suffering from bloody conflict and chaos.

Political stability, violent conflicts or insurgency also have taken place in many countries with Western-style democracy outside of Africa, such as Iraq in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan in central Asia, Thailand in Southeast Asia and Haiti in central America.

There are several factors behind the phenomenon.

First, there are no sound political mechanisms and widely accepted "game rules" in presidential elections or political circles. It is routine, when election officials declare a winner, for other candidates to reject the result and call for protests, which trigger bloody conflicts.

Second, leaders of some parties or cliques, who control the military, judicial departments and media, may rig elections, refuse to step down after apparent defeat in elections, or even launch coups to snatch power.

Third, there are vehement ethnic, regional or religious contradictions between different groups. The contests between different parties in elections or political affairs may deteriorate into bloody conflicts of the groups that support their respective parties.

Political stability is the foundation for economic development and social progress. The mechanical copy and application of Western-style democracy, regardless of the characteristics of different countries and the time, may cause political volatility, trigger bloody conflicts, hamper economic development, lower people's living standards and harm people's fundamental interests.

Many facts prove Western-style democracy isn't a panacea to political and social problems in different countries. Every country should choose its political system and development path according to its own characteristics and based on proper opportunity, and implement relevant transformation step by step.

Only in this way, can a country achieve good governance and long-lasting stability and people enjoy prosperity and happiness.

Editor: Tang Danlu
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