Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ivorian Crisis and the Global Trend toward Authoritarianism

The recent elections in Ivory Coast were essentially similar to the ones in Burma earlier this year and Belarus earlier this month. The incumbent dictatorships in those two states remained in power after winning rigged elections. Unlike the dictators of the other two states, the Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, had been elected originally. He lost reelection recently, but had the election results in favor of the opposition candidate overturned on spurious grounds. Thus, like the Burmese and Belarusian dictators, Gbagbo has remained in power after effectively after thwarting the democratic will expressed in an election.

The opposition Ivorian candidate, Alessane Ouatarra, a Muslim, is supported mostly in the Muslim north, while the Christian Gbagbo’s base of support is in the Christian south. Tensions between these two sides led to a civil war in the mid-2000s, although it was not a relatively bloody one by African standards. The current crisis is causing fear of a renewed outbreak of war, as there has already been some violence over the election dispute. France intervened against the government of the former French colony during the Ivorian Civil War. This time, the West African states are threatening to remove the Ivorian president by force if he does not resign. Although Ouatarra is a Muslim, a source who spent years in Ivory Coast until the outbreak of the Civil War informs me that the opposition candidate is not a militant Islamist.

The undemocratic elections in Burma, Belarus and Ivory Coast, like the rule by decree powers granted to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez that I posted on earlier this month, represent a countertrend toward authoritarianism in response to the more than two-decade-long global trend of democratization. Although representative republics have been established in some states in recent years, like Iraq, there has been a strong authoritarian backlash, most notably in supposedly democratic Russia, while dictatorships have clung to power in several states where their tyranny has been challenged. Russia, Venezuela, Iran and others have developed friendly relations with each other and encouraged the authoritarian trend. Their participation in a de facto Axis of Rogues will be the subject of a future post.

In the meantime, free people and those who wish to be free must stand for self-determination, the rule of law and liberty.

No comments: