by Jason C. Ditz
A couple of weeks ago, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni penned an op-ed piece in the Washington Post calling for the international community to impose a "universal code" on all democracies across the planet, with a particular eye towards the new ones springing forth from the popular uprisings in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
The code would compel political parties to adhere to certain officially approved-of international positions as a prerequisite for participation and would threaten "consequences" against nations who allow parties to run that have banned platforms.
The call, and Livni's suggestions for the code itself, are both entirely self-serving to a certain existing collection of ruling parties as well as wholly ignorant of the realities of democracy not just in newly liberated nations like Egypt, but long-standing ones like the United States as well, and would do serious damage to the freedom of public discourse and elections the world over.
Indeed, Livni's suggestions for the code are pretty transparently self-serving not just for Israel at-large, but for her opposition Kadima Party in particular.
The ban on parties that have private militias clearly targets Hezbollah and the demand that all parties agree to retain all existing international agreements clearly targets the Egyptian parties calling for the shelving of some of the 1979 agreement's terms.
The demands for all parties to support equality under the law could quite easily be used to target some of Kadima's foes in the ruling coalition, whose platforms openly call for the expulsion of Arabs from Israeli territory.
But couched in high-minded terms, these calls threaten to pick up momentum, particularly when the international community is expressing "fear" over the consequences of so many new free nations cropping up at once. It is therefore useful to not just ask where these ideas came from, but what their impact would be if applied globally.
Clearly, most of the demands are anathema to the opposition factions leading these new democratic revolutions.
International agreements imposed by an ousted dictator cannot be imposed as eternal demands on every free nation in the world. Even long-standing democracies could face problems when they have regime changes.
One might imagine these same standards being used to ban a US party calling for the end of a free-trade agreement or to demand Britain banned the UKIP for its opposition to the nation's membership in the European Union.
Likewise, the existence of party-allied militias in newly liberated nations is hardly exclusive to Hezbollah, but would also ban virtually every major political party in Iraq (most of which have militias from the Saddam-era days), and even the Afghan government, where much of the ruling and opposition factions were members of the Northern Alliance before the 2001 invasion, still retain loyal fighting factions.
These are the consequences of living under tyranny, and cannot possibly be used to punish these factions once they've been liberated.
Indeed, even the seemingly harmless diktat that the parties accept the government's "monopoly on the use of force" is obviously a major problem on close examination.
Not only would it ban pacifist parties the world over, and parties which object to the government's use of violence, it would also impact every single party which supported the popular revolutions across the Mideast.
Can any Egyptian party still claim to support the Mubarak government monopoly on force? Could any Libyan party say the same of Gaddafi's regime?
It would be only natural for these bans to be imposed irregularly against parties that someone with stronger international position has a problem with, and could likewise be an excuse for restriction in existing democracies of popular discourse.
The objection that Livni's suggestions need not be the final rules is only a minor one, as surely any rules set up by the United Nations would be self-serving to whichever nations pen them.
The value of democracies is entirely in their ability to produce grassroots change through popular opposition to certain platforms, and the attempt to impose a top-down regulatory body on the whole of the world's political systems is objectionable on its face, and a threat against the very freedoms it purports to defend.
Jason C. Ditz is an editor at Antiwar.com.
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