Elections don’t entail Democracy

A recent article by Nir Rosen in Harper’s points out the flawed, populist notion of democracy embraced by the Bush administration. In “After the Election: Iraq’s democratic preamble to civil war” (April 2005, pp. 71-74), Rosen shows that the White House’s fetishization of elections is incredibly naive. The administration pressed for “free” elections in Afghanistan and Iraq as proof that democracy had emerged in the region, but as Rosen concisely notes: “elections are the result of democracy, not the catalyst for it.” And in fact, the fetishization of elections (and the subsequent “branding” of purple-inked fingers as symbols of “freedom”) actually meant that the elections were conducted under some of the most un-democratic conditions one could imagine, including paid “reporters,” ballots without names, restriction of free speech, and above all, the continued climate of terror and fear. Rosen thinks that this sham of an election is actually a prelude to civil war. All the White House can see is their supposed triumph in all those purple fingers.