Editor'snote: Alfred de Zayas is professor of internationallaw at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and was United Nations Independent Experton International Order 2012-18. The article reflects the author's opinions andnot necessarily those of CGTN.
In a world of fake news, fake history, fakelaw, fake diplomacy, it is no surprise to encounter fake democracy along theway. On November 22, the Washington Post reported that the Stockholm-basedInternational Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in itslatest report downgraded the U.S. to the category of a "backsliding"democracy. But was the U.S. ever a"bastion of global democracy" as the IDEA and the Washington Posteditors pretend?
In my reports to the United Nations GeneralAssembly and Human Rights Council, I said that democracy means the correlationof the will of the people and the governmental policies that affect them.Democratic governance is much more than ritual periodic elections, but entailsgenuine policy choices, people's power to propose legislation, challenge lawsand regulations by referendum, demand transparency and accountability fromgovernment.
Moreover, a well-informed electorate isnecessary for a functioning democracy. This means that there must be access totruthful information and a plurality of views. This is sabotaged both bygovernment and private-sector manipulation of news. Noam Chomsky said: "Far from advancingdemocracy, the U.S. media conglomerates and corporate press, including the NewYork Times and Washington Post, undermine it by manufacturing consent."
As an American citizen, I vote every twoyears, but I know that our two-party system has proven to be undemocratic. Indeed,whether I vote Republican or Democrat, I get more of the same, because bothparties are committed to exceptionalism, imperialism, interventionism, WallStreet over Main Street. It is like having to choose between two beverages thatalmost taste the same, like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Both parties approve ofkilling tens of thousands of civilians with drones. Both approve the use ofradioactive depleted-uranium weapons. Both persecute journalists andwhistleblowers who dare disclose the crimes committed in our name. Both partiesare strongly pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. Both impose illegal unilateralcoercive measures on countries that do not obey Uncle Sam's political orders.
You do not have to be an anarchist torealize that our establishment intends and has the power to perpetuate itself.Of course, the electorate is invited to participate in choosing which of thetwo parties should oppress them, but this is a kind of theater, entertainmentfor the masses. Billions of dollars are wasted in the myth of democraticelections but, as has been variously attributed to Emma Goldman and KurtTucholsky: "If elections would change anything, they would beabolished."
IDEA is being intellectually dishonest whenit focuses on the undemocratic proclivities of Donald Trump, but does notaddress root causes of problems, the legacy of slavery and discrimination,including against the indigenous Cree, Sioux, Navajo – the "unsungvictims" of the U.S. corporatocracy. IDEA manipulates when it applauds"pro-democracy movements" worldwide — i.e., those groups, mostlyfinanced by the West, whose function is to destabilize and promote undemocratic"color revolutions" and foreign-imposed regime change.
Of course, aspects of democracy do exist inthe U.S., as they also exist in China, Russia, Belarus, Cuba and Venezuela. Thequestions that IDEA should be posing instead are how to facilitate publicparticipation in the conduct of public affairs, how to advance toward peace andsocial justice, how to ensure access to information and a true"marketplace of ideas." IDEA belongs to the "narrativemanagers" who act as an echo chamber for the establishment. It misses thepoint when it targets Hungary, Poland and Slovenia for a supposed democratic decline,instead of addressing endemic demophobia in most EU member states, where publicdemonstrations are suppressed – and not just those against the lockdownsresulting from the pandemic. Evidently, IDEA applies double standards.
The democratic backsliding was visible inFrance with the repression of the "yellow vests," in Spain with thebrutal suppression of the self-determination referendum in Catalonia in 2017,the brutality of the Guardia Civil against peaceful voters, pregnant women, oldladies, the use of rubber bullets against citizens going to vote – I myselfinterviewed some of these victims. How can IDEA remain silent on the existenceof political prisoners in Spain, whose only "crime" is to demand theimplementation of their right to hold a referendum, a right protected by theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 1, 19, 25)?
In countless resolutions, the UN GeneralAssembly has acknowledged that there is no single model of democracy, thatdemocracy cannot be exported but must be home-grown, that each country shouldfind its own way consistent with the right of self-determination of peoples andthe principles of the UN Charter.
As UN rapporteur, I denounced the wrongpriorities of inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations that seemto be intent on keeping the status quo so that the rich will remain rich andthe poor will stay poor.