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Friday, February 23, 2024

US politics and the wrinkles in democracy

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America must be elected by a majority of the members-elect of the House. Failing to secure a majority requires taking the vote again and again and again.

Being third in the succession to the presidency, the prolonged selection process for this important position in the politics of one of the oldest democracies in the world certainly caught the attention of some around this end of the world.

This last selection on January 7, 2023, made history in having to undergo fifteen times of voting before a final majority was registered. The last time such a prolonged process took was some 160 years ago. There were even much greater number of times of voting in 1856/57.

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Anyway, in the world of comparative politics, the importance of the case in USA, points to the necessity of having strong institutions that protect democracy. The growth and sustenance of democracy heavily relies on the existence of such institutions.

As President Obama once said, “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”.

Leaders come and go but the system of governance that ensures a continuous improvement and development of a nation and its people is dependent on the efficiency of strong and vibrant institutions. The strength of such institutions lies in their ability to uphold the values of justice with objectivity – without fear and more so without favor.

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During the USA process of selecting the Speaker, it was found to be intriguing by some that a single person has been so “persistent” in trying to secure a position of power – indeed so, from the African experience and perspective where leaders consistently and adamantly refuse to relinquish power.

Democracies fail when leaders cunningly and surreptitiously extract the longevity of their stay in power from an acquiescent people who complacently (sometimes deliberately) groom such leaders to become the reared monster of a dictator.

The responsibility of sustaining democracy is the business of every citizen but most importantly that of the very institutions established to do so – the very institutions established to uphold (and advocate for) the rule of law, justice and to protect the rights and freedom of the people. Where they fail to do so, democracy backslides into the realm of dictatorship.

However, from the USA perspective, it was no more than an institution dutifully and diligently following a due process in order to attain a logical conclusion by ironing out the wrinkles in a democratic dispensation and keeping the system running smoothly.

Democracy works but not without wrinkles of agreeing to disagree within the context of strong political institutions, rule of law, independent judiciary, respect of public opinion, transparent electoral laws and processes, respect for human rights, vibrant and effective legislature and a sober and committed executive.

“Democracy is not a state. It is an act” – late John Lewis a USA civil rights icon

Lamino Lang coma


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