Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas and MAS the Ugly Side of Democracy (HA - MAS)

Well Hamas wins in the occupied territories and Evo Morales takes the elections in Bolivia. While Evo is a throwback to some of the most outdated and stupid socialistic doctrines, he is nowhere close to being a violent terrorist, but there is a lot in common in both recent votes, besides freaking out Washington.

Both victories owe a lot to the "throw the bums out" feeling in populations frustrated by the inability of their elected officials to govern honestly. Clientilism and corruption in government is fairly new to Palestinians, given the fact that they have not governed themselves for too long, but it is old hat to most Bolivians. And like Fatah, the traditional Bolivian parties (and by definition the upper class elites) had a long and tarnished history of governance. And they were clearly not able to get their house in order for this election, in the same way Fatah presented a divided and confusing face to the Palestinian voters.

At the very least it is a truism in both cases that the freedom to express ones self and the right to vote have given both populations options they did not have 30 years ago. The people have spoken, and the message they have given is that it will not be business as usual. That ultimately should act as a wake-up call to the Bolivians and Palestinians that they must shape up if they ever want to be in power again. And it also is a message to the new rulers that they must govern efficiently and make compromises that befits statesman.

What is crucial in the long run, is how well the institutions on which a democracy depends can survive. Elected governments, can devolve into paralysis, mob rule, and/or single party rule. But, fortunately for Bolivia, its state has been pruned down from its earlier excesses, and power has been spread out to the provinces. Bolivias democracy has been surprisingly resillient, and the new centers of power in places like Santa Cruz will ultimately keep Evo honest, or the golden goose will simply move away and become another country. If MAS stops being the party of economic nonsense and stupidity and embraces economic reality, the long-term future of Bolivia might not be compromised.

Hamas is more complicated, it will have to change its stated goals and terrorist methods, and live up to its reputation as an honest administrator. It faces the might of the Israel Defence Forces as a brake on any attempt to continue to behave as a terrorist organization. The Palestinians certainly deserve both good government and peace.