Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Friday, December 30, 2005

2005: Democracy Rising?

As 2005 draws to a close it is only appropriate to look back, and reflect, on the year gone by. As I am sure the case has been for you, my past 12 months have passed by with alarming speed, yet looking back January seems long ago. I hereby offer a short review of Democracy from continent to continent, during the fifth year of the new millennium.


After a promising start to the decade, Africa has without a doubt taken a few steps backward this year. Regimes we believed to be Democratic, were revealed to be no more than Dictatorships in drag.

The rigged elections in Ethiopia, but the more shocking repercussions for the opposition, proved the farce that is Meles Zenawi's Parliamentary government. The events in Addis Ababa bring into question other so-called 'Democractic Nations' transparency. Zenawi implemented 'Democracy' after winning a civil war. He had held power without any real challenge since the 1990's, yet when his rule was threatened he turned to guns. Barring the final statement, Ethiopia's history is not at all dissimilar to South Africa or Namibia's. How Democracy progresses in those and other African nations this year, will prove whether accountable government is being merely used as a myth to attract foreign donors.

Nations we knew had no Democractic credentials slid into further misery this year. Zimbabwe saw two more rigged elections, cementing Mugabe's rule. His exit strategy looks as if, unless violent revolution occurs, Harare is doomed until at least 2008. Togo saw yet more violence and became another Family Dictatorship, with Faure Gnassingbe, the son of Gnassingbe Eyadema winning an April vote.

Somalia had a more positive year, with a transitional government now in place, and Somaliland holding a free and fair election.

Middle East

The Invasion of Iraq continued to send political tremors throughout the region, with all attempting to portray themselves as emerging Democracies. Kuwaiti Women received the vote, Egypt legalised competitive Presidential elections, and Saudi Arabia dipped its toes into Democracy. Syria also paid lip service to allowing opposition parties who did not challenge the Ba'ath rule to operate. However much promised legislation providing for this never came about. The year ended on a sour note however with the jailing of Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour. Mubarak appears to be casting himself as the only moderate force in the face of a strong Muslim Brotherhood. Democracy in Egypt is likely to grind to a halt for the next few years, until Mubarak's expected exit from office.

Central Asia

They said it would never happen. Yet by March Central Asia was in upheaval. President of 15 years, Askar Akayev fled the country in a dramatic day of rioting in the Kyrgyz capital. Opposition leaders were released, State TV freed, a new leader became interim President. Yet despite the high expectations that Bakiyev or Kulov would become a Yushchenko or even Saakashvili were short lived.

Uzbekistan clamped down on its own protests in dramatic fashion. The U.S went from friend to foe within the space of weeks. Meanwhile Turkmenistan nudged towards Democracy, before realising things were already perfect. As I stated in October, quite rightfully, Kazakhstan became the new darling of the West. Meanwhile the one true beacon of Democracy in Central Asia held yet another free and fair election.


The Kremlin bandits sold Russian Democracy even further down the river this year, as they panicked over Revolution. By the end of the year Putin had resulted to playground bully tactics in an attempt to get his puppet Yanukovych back into power. As I stated in September lets hope Ukrainians don't back that bunch in Parliamentar elections for 2006.

Georgia had a somewhat mixed year Democracy wise, with some by-elections and needless rhetoric from President Saakashvili. Ooh here's some more of that rhetoric.

Moldova meanwhile muddled along quite nicely, struggling to elect a mayor over and over again. My longest post to date covers a rough guide to exactly how Democracy is progressing in Chisinau. Check it out if you missed it first time round!

Azerbaijan surprised nobody with a rigged election, although revolution was avoided.

Rest of World

I do not claim to be an expert on America (or infact anywhere) so one continent is missing from my Democracy update. Although, the BBC has a nice section on the left-wing shift in South America. China made some steps towards Democracy this year. As always progress is slow and hardly noticeable, however there were some positive trends. Certain quarters of the media continued to be daring in their coverage, eventually attracting the ire of the authorities. Village Democracy continued, although that too faced trouble. Thankfully the wool was not pulled over the eyes of Hong Kong's population, in regard to universal suffrage.

All in all, 2005 has been a mixed year for Democracy. The continuing rise of China gives Authoritarian regimes, such as Zimbabwe, a much needed lifeline, and will likely halt the development of pluralism in 2006. Keep an eye on Iraq (of course), Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Belarus, Palestine and Ukraine as next year's Democracy hotspots.

Finally thank you to you all for reading Democracy Rising this year. As you have noticed my posting frequency has decreased in recent weeks, due to educational and work commitments. However, I have no intentions of closing the blog for the foreseeable future, and hope to return to my normal postings in February. In the meantime I'll do my best to update, and may you and your families have a very happy new year!

Matt Jay


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