The topic that I have chosen this time is important for every individual not just for the ones who vote, but for everyone living under global governance. For months after political instability and heated debate on the “future of Delhi” our hon’ble Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal won the elections with stunning victory, fighting all odds as “talkative” political analysts failed in their predictions. Barely two months after the elections another debate hit our television channels. Scams after scams, tapes after tapes, stings after stings, shattered AAP’s image into dust. Na MAIN, na AAP na WO, could protect them from this scam spree! Some called Mr Kejriwal a “sole Authority” some called him a “Vijeta”; some called him a “Dictator”. For AAP he was a “tyrant”. So these incidents struck me and wanted to understand how can one decide whether a leader will, in future, turn out to be a dictator or an oppressor? One cannot. So I have to give the credit to Mr Kejriwal being an instigator of my column! Kejriwal started with a movement which grew larger and he grabbed the opportunity to seat on the top of Delhi Government. Amid political crisis he kept quiet even when NDMC people went on a strike. It takes guts to do nothing as people within your own government go on strike and for few days “waste” was all over the streets.
One such “dictator” was our former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a powerful woman who walked with dictators like Fidel Castro. We won the battle of Kashmir under her leadership. My grandfather cried when he heard the news of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on BBC radio. So there are dictators like Indira Gandhi who made people attached to her, sentiments were flowing from one soul to other, which became a strong bond for the nation. But today’s topic does not revolve around India’s political scenario, it is a global issue. Increasingly in the world today, there are emerging nations still growing under the leadership of their “dictator”. United Nations is always emphasizing on democracy, people’s rights, proper governance, development and human rights. These are some of the important factors that were the foundations of the UN; Democracy is the ultimate goal no matter how flawed it is. This leads to another question, whether flawed democracy is good for governance as long as it is democratic or whether these forms of government are in fact potentially more damaging than benevolent dictatorships, in which more growth is recorded as compared to the former; the question is difficult to answer.
Pakistan is one of the dysfunctional democracies in the world where the governance is hanging between militaristic policies and dictatorial actions. As a matter of fact, Pakistan is just an outcome of western policies that took down the people of Pakistan along with their national identity. Often fluctuating between military policies and dictator rule, the attempt to create democracy in Pakistan has more or less being failed, dividing the ethnic culture and creating an unhealthy leadership. Well it is not wrong to say that democracy is itself bad for Pakistan. However, the change in political scenario in Pakistan have created a “too hot to handle” situation on international arena. South Asian Island nation, Thailand has been cursed with the same disproportionate failing democracies as people went to the streets to fight their leaders. Small nations like Ireland too have been victimised by religious conflict which led to enormous turmoil in the region. Don’t worry; I’m not saying that Ireland, Thailand or Pakistan should drive out their oppressors. However something needs to be done to re-establish democracy in the regions. So the question is, should a country such as these be valued above those nations that work under dictatorship? No definitely not, a democracy will always be valued more, especially in the areas of development and aid.
So, what is this? Is this a Western outdated, narrow minded approach?
“Avoid the democratic system of government, because the combined thinking of two hundred donkeys cannot produce the wisdom of one man.” – Sir Muhammad Ibqal
In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez made huge progress in achieving the goals of millennium development, until his death in 2013, spending almost 60% of financial expenses in development. Venezuela has made the most progress in achieving the millennium development goals especially the Goal 2, Universal Primary Education. Due to its enormous efforts towards education, Venezuela has now been declared as “illiteracy free” nation by the UN. As a result Venezuela also closed in the gender equality rate, with four government branches working under the leadership of women. All of these have been achieved under the rule of this “people’s” dictator. A benevolent dictator perhaps, Chavez rigged elections consistently between 1999 and 2013. His temporarily gave powers to his successor, Nicolas Maduro, while he sacked the entire ageing ally in his department. Venezuela was always in the grip of Chavez. This dictator fulfilled the dreams of social reforms and benefits where many democratic nations failed to do so and arguably it is true.
So, is this a problem?
Leaving the obvious, the administrative control of Maduro means that Venezuela will not qualify for UN Development Aid, nor it qualifies the nation for UN Sustainable programs, as they would require, democracy. The Outcome? Venezuela is completely abandoned by international communities. I wouldn’t argue the legitimacy of Maduro’s appointment, and I would not suggest UN welcoming the nation with open arms; although in the name of human rights, Venezuela on the accounts of its achievement should be recognised for the UN Development aid with few factors under consideration (a) The government’s responsibility towards the people and (b) The fact that Venezuelan government never committed crimes against humanity, no matter how corrupt they may be.
Well looking at the US record of racial and household violence, rioting and unrest, Venezuela is at peace. However you could argue with the status of legitimacy of elections, but Maduro’s control over the country is so perfect that we don’t try to encourage democracy. However Venezuela is always enthusiastic when it comes to cooperation with other countries. So now the question, if we try to engage, what will be the outcome?
So you might be thinking, where am I going with this, an overview of Venezuela will not answer us all. Looking with a different angle, Venezuela is not perfect at all. Economy is being hampered due to fluctuation in oil prices and problems with Chavez foreign exchange policies have resulted in low growth and more civil unrest in the country. With a little more support from the international agencies might turn the tide for Venezuelans; the US policy makers are very strict when it comes to Venezuela.
It is more important to understand when it comes to dictators that economic sanctions affect the people from the roots, look at Cuba; they have been fighting since “Bay of Pigs”. Governance plays a partial role for political exiles; they effect more economically. As a matter of fact hardship economic conditions have left Maduro no choice but to reduce his salary, poverty is at its peak in Venezuela as it is unable to receive any financial benefits from trade, and fewer economic sanctions have left them economically crippled. The problem is in its roots: we punish entire nation for the government they chose. We exile many of the political leaders whom “we” think are not capable and until the point of collapse we feel we have done some good – look at Syria now. Well today Syria doesn’t fall under the category of benevolent dictator, it certainly was for many years, when an educated and reluctant president walked to his office with an intention of liberalisation and with that time period helped Assad to achieve the goals, the recent chaos and turmoil in the region has reverted everything he stood for. The regime might have been internationally influenced, and a democracy would have been possible, instead of blood, sweat and tears.
On the other hand, democratic governments struggle to retain their funds which after years of discussion, debates and criticism they intend to use and once they use the funds, the incident had already affected the people. Now compare this situation to Cuba, whose extensive trade sanctions has led to stable economy. It is very much possible for the dictators to assist in aid much better than elected governments. The important stuff to notice is that there is very little to do with their type of government, for them “people” is what matters. So should we judge countries by their policies and not by principle? In the end, it’s always the people who we’re fighting for, and it must be seen that the person, whoever it may be, stands for the people, with the people, always.
So what should be done? Is there anything we can do?
Dictatorships theoretically, must be stopped. The simplest answer is to get involved. Western intervention? No way!! Not at all. However at this point it is the UN that should change.
Today, nations are excluded from international development and aid just because of their leaders. With a pre-established mindset it is hard for the UN to accept dictators; thus new methods should be implemented to assess countries and their needs. There has to be a base on actual development; financial policy on actual economic conditions. The 21st century doesn’t accept nations to stick around resolutions from the pre Cold War era. It makes no sense in condemning the governance that too by condemning the people of that governance, just because they have supported a fruit bearing effort, on the expense of their leader. However there are a few successful revolutions that have changed the course of governance globally; Tunisia was the only success of the Arab Spring, where protestors used internet media to attract global attention. Another example is that of the Soviet Union which collapsed because people wanted something different, people were intellectuals, people knew what was best for them.
Whether you accept or condemn a regime, abandoning never works. Similarly we need to focus on nations that have broken down due to failed dictatorship and where democracy is struggling to gain people’s trust. Our principles of democracy will not work until and unless we protect them.
There are two ways we can conclude; first, in order to ensure democracy which UN heavily relies on, we must support the people of nations hard hit in turmoil, secondly, we just have to live with the way it is and giving best, doing our moral duties towards the government, dictator or elected one; although, the reality exists between the two.
Even if, assuming the United Nations thinks best for both the country and its people but thorough reassessment is very important for that nation to run peacefully. How? Well, this is the point where you have to decide. Regardless of what UN wants to achieve, the only thing that they needs is a list of governance, which completely understands the needs of the people along with the adequate supplies it has for them. This is applied for both elected governments and dictatorships. I leave this point open to you; you have to decide what is right for the government and for the UN do to. You are the grassroot of governance, you have elected the government to decide best for the people, and you are a part of it.
Photo Credits:  “ArvindKejriwal2” by TY – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons- http://bit.ly/1CdCkrq  “BayofPigs” by User:Zleitzen – Own work, based on public domain image. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://bit.ly/1DFpBoo  Indira Gandhi – http://bit.ly/1NZyHhk
Anant Mishra is former youth representative United Nations. He has served in number of committees including United Nations Conference for Trade and Development and United Nations General Assembly primarily focusing on international trade, middle east crisis, education, finance, economics. He can be reached on [email protected]
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