THE United Nations General Assembly has designated September 15 as the International Day of Democracy. The intention behind that decision was to promote and uphold the principles of democracy as the basis for rule and governance. The theme for this year’s observance is ‘Strengthening democratic resilience in the face of future crisis’.
According to the United Nations, International Day of Democracy provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. Democracy, it noted, is as much a process as it is a goal and only with the full participation of the international community can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality.
The truth is that freedom and respect for human rights are integrally linked with democracy and the rule of law. There can be no genuine freedom without democracy, defined to mean the rule of the majority in certified free and fair elections and elections free from fear.
We have come a far way in terms of democratic rule since the days of rigged elections but our democracy still remains fragile as was seen when the APNU+AFC Coalition attempted to subvert the democratic will of the Guyanese people during the March 2, 2020 General and Regional elections.
Despite the fact that the results of the elections were validated by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the international community, the Coalition still continues to peddle a false narrative of being cheated out of power. Its continuing refusal to accept the PPP/C administration as the legitimate and duly elected government is all the more repugnant given the fact that despite several counts and recounts there existed no credible evidence of electoral malpractice.
Contrary to what is being parroted by the ‘PNC+AFC’ Coalition and its cohorts, the PPP/C is not an ‘installed regime” but one that is democratically elected in free and fair elections. These elections, as stated before, were not only free and fair but were so recognised by the entire international community. Indeed, Guyana is today a respected member in the community of democratic nations and any attempt to project a contrary image is not only hypocritical but an affront to the values of the democratic world and to all those who cherish the ideals of democracy.
Admittedly, there is no such thing as a perfect democracy. But in the present circumstances of our political culture, there is no substitute for the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ which over the centuries has always been the defining characteristic of democratic rule and for that matter the preferred and globally acceptable basis for governance. Democracy can be particularly challenging in diverse societies such as ours but until we can come up with a better alternative, it is incumbent on us all to play by the democratic rules as enshrined in our Constitution.
One critical ingredient in the quest for a more inclusive and participatory form of governance is that element of trust. Regrettably, the APNU+AFC Coalition, by continuing to deny the reality of its defeat at the last polls is in fact making a political statement, namely, that it is unprepared to play by the democratic rules. That is not the best way of helping to create that climate of trust which is so badly necessary to move forward as a politically stable and cohesive society.
This, however, does not detract from the imperative of seeking new ways to deepen our democracy and in the process allow for a more inclusive society. The PPP/C administration has repeatedly stated its desire to have a governance model based on the principles of inclusivity. However, such commitments have been largely ignored and scoffed upon by the political opposition which seems bent on pursuing a course of adversarial politics.
Yet the search for a political solution within the framework of our democracy cannot be put on hold. As President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali noted in his statement on International Day of Democracy, any threat to free and fair elections represent an assault on democracy. As Guyanese, we all have a duty and responsibility to zealously guard our democracy. The President took the opportunity to again applaud all those, both at home and abroad, who stood by Guyana during that difficult period when our democracy was under siege by the APNU+AFC Coalition.
For democracy to flourish, all hands have to come on board: civil society, religious bodies, trade unions and by no means least, our political leaders. The President has already signalled his intention to reach out to all stakeholders. It is now for the political opposition to turn a new page and play by the democratic rules.
The international community is today less tolerant of those who seek to obtain power other than through the democratic will of the people. This fact has been demonstrated in no uncertain terms during the March 2, 2020 General and Regional elections. The APNU+AFC Coalition by its recent actions seem impervious to this fundamental truth.