Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Democracy According to the Rules - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

It was interesting to follow the British general elections and the negotiations that followed and lasted for a number of days, resulting in a coalition government in Britain for the first time since World War II. The government comprises of two parties that are different to one another in terms of ideology; the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, both of which agreed on a joint program after each party made some concessions and abandoned some of the policies [they would have upheld] if they formed a government alone.

This happened because none of the three main parties (Labour Party, Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats) were granted the carte blanche by the British electorate to form a majority government after the electoral battle that took place during an economic crisis, and for the first time the battle included televised debates similar to the famous American-style televised presidential debates.

The result of the vote took less than 24 hours [to be revealed], and the situation fluctuated until the party negotiations came to an end. When the features of the old coalition became apparent, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown handed in his resignation and wished his successor the best of luck. He met with Queen Elizabeth, who accepted his resignation, and left Number 10 to make room for the new Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron, along with his new partner in the coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, was keen to thank the former Prime Minister and praise him for his achievements, and the transition of power was carried out smoothly and respectfully between all parties.

After the smiles and the niceties, the moment of truth arrived, and this was expressed by reporters of British newspapers, as difficult and unpopular decisions are waiting to be made by the new government so that it can deal with government debt and budget deficits created by the implementation of immense rescue programs for banks and financial institutions, and financial plans to avoid a deep economic recession. However, this coalition is still required to prove that it is able to continue to work without allowing crises to jeopardize the government and its continuation. But this is another matter.

What really deserves consideration is the fact that the elector who voted in this coalition government was aware that any forthcoming government would face difficult decisions and that he would have to swallow this one way or the other. The focal point of the electoral campaigns of all three parties was the economy and the dispute was over the timing of cuts in public spending, and whether this would happen soon or after a while so as not to jeopardize the rescue plan.

The economy is usually a complicated issue; yet none of the three parties tried to conceal the facts during the electoral campaign or in the period before announcing the date of the general elections nor did they try to raise misleading slogans or programs to delude voters into thinking that difficult, unpopular decisions could be avoided. There was a state of mutual understanding and recognition between politicians and voters that as long as there is public borrowing or deficit, plans and programs need to be put in place to settle the debts as there is no country in the world with a bottomless treasury and owing to its sovereign status, the treasury in any society is the only authority that can print paper money provided that it maintains public trust, otherwise the entire equation would fall apart and the currency would be devalued.

This mutual understanding is the ideal state of democracy so that it can function in accordance with the rules. Democracy requires politicians who state what the facts are in a frank manner even if the news is bad news. Democracy does not need smooth-talking politicians who chant zealous slogans that people know are more or less lies that would soon be exposed. In the end, this creates a healthy state in any society and enables it to find practical and realistic solutions to its problems.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

More Posts