'Democracies' Still Precarious
THE old communist game of pretending to represent the people (while not even pretending to have fair elections) continues under the tamer "socialist" tag through the simulation of democratic elections in remote areas of the East.
Honest elections in Ukraine and Poland brought in reform governments. However, opposition movements in other emerging democratic states must fight against old establishment elites for fair elections. In places such as Armenia, Tajikistan, and Moldova, the cold war wolves have discovered the benefits of sheep's clothing.
Under the communist system, voting was mandatory. The Communist Party wanted to show the world how much its people loved the system. It was understood that the communist-backed candidate would win. Elections became just another party mandate, devoid of any real significance.
The United States and all established democracies have a role in changing this view so that the new franchise will not become an equally hollow concept. For democracy to succeed, the integrity of the voting process cannot be compromised. Already the elections in Tajikistan and Moldova were ruined because little effective security could be provided for the voting process. These areas are seldom covered by the media and therefore often forgotten by the world.
In Tajikistan, the democratic candidate, Davlat Khudonazarov, officially received only 31 percent of the vote while the former communist leader, Kakhmon Nabiev, won with 57 percent. Inside sources tell how legitimate this election was.
Forged minutes of local election commissions were prepared to replace vote tallies from the polling places. While observers watched as people voted, no public observers were allowed to examine the calculation of voting bulletins (ballots). Hundreds of false voting ballots marked in advance for Nabiev were discovered in voting places. Real ballots (all cast in favor of Davlat) were found in the sewers of Dushanbe. Nabiev is now president, and the same leaders who dominated the people under the communist s ystem now govern, wearing the respectable cloak of democracy.
On Sunday, Dec. 8, the communists acted less subtly to thwart Moldova's presidential election. Over the weekend, Moldovans told of joint detachments of "Dneister SSR" armed guards and uniformed Soviet soldiers besieging or taking over police and other law-enforcement and government offices.
The Dneister SSR, established by Russian nationalists, does not want the ethnic Romanians to gain power in Moldova. A large portion of Romania was carved away to create this geographic oddity, and the many ethnic Romanians within its borders want to return to Romania.
Armed detachments entered Moldovan villages to dissuade residents from voting in the presidential election and even closed down some polling stations. Army helicopters dropped leaflets that urged residents not to vote. Towns were patrolled by armed forces, although voting was monitored by observers from the US, West and East European countries, the Baltics, the Russian Republic, Ukraine, and Romania. Out of 2.9 million eligible voters, 550,000 were unable to vote because of pressures put on them.
Fear of reprisal is often wielded by repressive regimes to keep themselves in power. Added to this weapon are confusion, caused by the proliferation of political parties, and the nagging possibility that all people's effort is as worthless as it once was, creating apathy.
If democracy is to have a chance in these long suppressed areas, it needs fair elections. Honest elections are a cornerstone of democratic governments. Faith in the system will encourage the people to take part in their governments.
An international presence can increase an election's validity. Observers should be able to scrutinize every step of the election process. Media attention and international observers played an important part in Nicaragua, and could do more for the many nations beginning to experiment with democratic practices.
As the world leader, the US has many options. While it could not possibly carry the burden of sending observers to every election, it could train local groups to be election watchers. The Krieble Institute does this on the local level from Vladivostock to Prague and from Dushanbe to St. Petersburg.
With its influence, the US should continue working with other democracies to warn tyrannical governments of the certain consequences that result from not allowing their people this basic human right. Elections observers should be allowed to report on campaign methods, the election process, and the tallying of the ballots. Standards that clearly articulate what constitutes a fair election should be made clear to the election committees and governments.
Cutting investment, forbidding access to trade with democratic countries, and denying political recognition are all weapons to use when fighting for freedom, liberty, and the unaltered expression of the peoples' will. Credits should be issued carefully so that an illegitimate government will not be propped up.
Action must be taken now because of the number of elections coming up in Eastern Europe. If America makes clear what is at stake, voters in these elections will be able to cast their ballots with hope and not fear. With such confidence will bud a belief in the rule of law and hence the stability any nation needs to grow. America must take a stand supporting the spread of democracy.