Saturday, May 17, 2014


By Dr  Mahathir Mohamad

1. Democracy is a great system, perhaps the best system for governing a country ever invented by man.
2. What can be better than a government of the people, by the people, for the people. And most of the developed countries are democratic, obviously benefiting from the system.
3. Does this mean that all countries which are governed democratically will be stable, prosperous and developed? The great democracies of the West seem to think so. Such is their faith in the system that they are willing to kill and destroy in order to promote democracy. They have now decided to bring about regime change in order to democratise the undemocratic countries. If you resist democratisation they will kill you and destroy your country. And so they did in Iraq and are doing so in the Arab countries and elsewhere.
4. It is assumed that the people, or at least the majority of the people would be wise enough to choose the most capable people to rule them. Unfortunately the people do not always choose the most capable. They may be influenced by race, religion, ideology and a host of other factors when electing their governments.
5. They may also choose because of money. In fact in most cases their choices are based on immediate personal gain rather than national interest.
6. Because of all these democracy has often failed to provide countries with good governance. Indeed it may result in dividing the people into parties and groups and pit them against each other.
7. If there are only two parties it is possible for one or the other to achieve a clear majority and to form the Government. But when there are more than two, it is entirely possible for no one party getting a clear majority of the seats in the legislature to form a Government.
8. In a two party system a small majority may weaken the Government due to fear of defection by its members. Only a Government with a big majority can provide stable and effective Governments.
9. As stated above when there are numerous parties it is likely that none would achieve a majority (50%+) to form the Government. A coalition may need to be formed in order to achieve a majority. Such a post-election coalition Government would always be threatened by defections of a coalition partner and so losing the majority. The Government would thus always be weak and unstable.
10. However, a pre-election coalition stands a better chance of winning a good majority especially if the coalition acts as a party fielding only one candidate in each constituency.
11. When this is done and the single coalition candidate is supported by all the coalition members it is likely that he will win. The chances are good for the coalition to win enough seats to form the Government. Such a coalition would be more stable and strong.
12. In Malaysia the Alliance and then the National Front coalitions which at times had as many as 14 parties have won in all the 14 elections held since independence. Such has been the success of the pre-election coalition formula that the opposition parties, despite their deep differences have decided to form their own coalition. The result is that in Malaysia there is now effectively a two-party system operating, It is therefore possible for a majority to be achieved by one or the other coalition in elections.
13. So far so good. But a basic principle in elections is for the loser to accept losing, to accept the result of the polls and wait for the next election. This is what happens in mature democracies. But parties in new democracies seem quite unable to accept losing. They dispute the result and they resort to undemocratic ways to overthrow the elected party or coalition.
14. Democracy upholds the rights of the minority. They must be protected. Therefore they are allowed to show their disappointment at losing in a variety of democratic ways. In Parliament they may stage walkouts when unable to block Government action. They may carry out active campaigning through the media and rallies to discredit the Government. Now they can make use of the alternative media to cause disaffection for the Government.
15. When sometimes they may resort to strikes and demonstrations.
16. All these are still permissible in a democracy. But now the strikes and street demonstrations have become so huge and prolonged as to paralyse the whole country.
17. In a non-democratic totalitarian state such massive demonstrations may be justified as there is no other way to change Governments. But now even when elections can determine changes in Governments, the losers in democratic elections have resorted to these disruptive acts.
18. We see in Egypt, Ukraine and even Thailand the opposition resorting to mass demonstrations in order to overthrow duly elected majority Governments. In Egypt and Ukraine the elected Government have been overthrown. Strangely even when new elections are agreed to by the majority elected Government, the minority opposition would not agree and choose to continue with street demonstrations. They claim the elections would be fraudulent.
19. The net result is continuous instability and sufferings by people and in particular the small businessmen. A situation akin to anarchy would prevail.
20. So far Malaysia has been spared the instability due to massive prolonged street demonstrations. But the signs are already there. Obviously there are Malaysians who would like to bring down the elected Government through demonstrations.
21. The series of Bersih demonstrations are obviously meant to excite public support to discredit the Government and eventually to bring it down. The Government is accused of cheating in previous elections so as to justify rejection of the coming elections should the Government party win. Massive and continuous demonstrations would then be held.
22. So far the numbers in the demonstrations are not big enough to paralyse the country. Though disruptive, the businesses, including the small street stalls have not been stopped. But the hope of the organisers of Bersih must be to attract millions to participate and to be daily affairs so that the usual daily life of the people would be disrupted.
23. A next step may be to occupy Government buildings.
24. The police would be provoked into taking violent actions. International news agencies and their television crew would then record the violence which would be broadcast throughout the world to discredit the majority elected Government. Of course violence on the part of the demonstrators would not be recorded or shown.
25. Malaysians have not responded to the call. Maybe they will in the future and Malaysia would join the ranks of unstable countries incapable of being governed and much less being developed.
26. The world needs to make up its mind. Do we elect Government by voting or do we install Government through street demonstrations?
27. Democracy as we can see is not perfect. But it is by far the best system of Government that we have. But like all systems, abuses can negate the objective.
28. If democracy is to survive and to serve the purpose for which it is devised, there must be some acceptance of the limits to the freedom that we consider democratic.
29. Free speech, free press, demonstrations and strikes must be circumscribed to some degree so that they will not destroy democracies in the name of democracy.

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