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The majority view holds

  • Published at 06:40 pm August 8th, 2018
When democracy fell short REUTERS

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has passed a constitutional amendment declaring the country, what it for all practical purposes is, a Jewish state. 

This relegates Arab-Israelis to dubious “lesser” citizenship, along with the Arabic language becoming subservient to Yiddish, without a whimper from anyone except the Arab-Israelis. They have described it as a “hate crime.” 

Their numbers may be low, but in a democracy, the majority view holds. In this case, the minority that is usually protected by the state are no longer equals, despite the assurance to the contrary.  

That India is following suit by questioning over four million Assamese of Bengal ancestry to prove their citizenship is a different step towards a similar one by Israel. In India’s case, this is to weed out those who crossed over after the creation of Bangladesh. 

Ominously, everyone having their citizenship revoked can re-apply, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated that Hindus from anywhere can seek Indian citizenship. Those denied even after re-applying fall under deportation. 

During his election campaign, Modi said the day after the election results that Bangladeshis would have to leave India. It would seem charity has begun in Assam. It was largely supported by the electorate as should be the case, and this was before the days of wired borders. At least the Arabs in Israel can choose to stay, these Bengali Muslims don’t have a choice.

Nowhere better than the UK have democracy’s shortcomings been so well personified. The historic vote in favour of Brexit was won by a slender majority, most of whom privately said they weren’t fully aware of the repercussions, and others saying they were given wrong information by politicians. 

Boris Johnson travelled in the Leave campaign on the famous red bus with the words “£350 million pounds per week,” which could be churned back into the National Health Services. That money never transpired, and now having left his government position, says it’s not too late to achieve Brexit. 

Ideally, as a patriot, he should be helping Theresa May with his solutions. But then, Brexit has and continues to be an issue apparently insoluble. If hard borders can work with EU countries bordering non-EU nations, Ireland and a hard border surely can be achieved. But Johnson’s resignation effectively scuppered whatever deal May achieved at her plush country residence, Chequers.  

That was followed by the announcement that Britain is stockpiling goods and advising suppliers to do the same, signalling of a preparation for a no-deal Brexit. Stockpiles have their shelf life and can only delay the inevitable. 

The developing world’s democracy has its own issues. 

Few have elections where there isn’t widespread fraud. So much so that Nelson Chamisa, opposition candidate in Zimbabwe, would not accept that he could be beaten. Should outgoing President Emerson Mnangagwa lose, he can’t put it down to rigging. Chamisa can. 

Cambodians recently voted in an election without the main opposition party that was disassembled on legal grounds. Bangladesh has had its “constitutional continuation” elections, different from Cambodia’s situation but with similar end results. 

If the voter is allowed to vote, few would want a hung parliament, but that’s what they often deliver as has been the case in Pakistan. And when the voters stamp ballot carte blanche, politicians lose their sense of propriety. Hung parliaments and disputed elections result in weariness, fear, and premonitions. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.