140050_IOB_alumni-mag_A4_20140429_final.pdf - Page 10

the elections are technically sound. However, there is also a problem in the way we look at elections: if the elections are not rigged on the day of the event, then we need to look into – and advocate more – the electoral cycle approach because that’s where the problems usually are. Secondly, we see in many countries – not only in Rwanda – that it is possible to oppress people for a limited period of time, whether it is 10 or 20 years. In the long run, however, it’s the voice of the people that will prevail. SV: The big gamble for Rwanda is whether it can build – as it pretends it is doing – a nation around citizenship rather than around ethnic identities. In the case of Rwanda, the gamble seems to be a government that draws its legitimacy on other benefits, other merits it has, such as service delivery. In very crude terms, the question is, in a way, whether even Hutu voters will, without any coercion, vote for a Tutsi president if he is able to provide health infrastructures, schooling, etc. better than the same Hutu have experienced with previous regimes. Or whether at the end of the day, other aspects that are not strictly related to those services provided, such as freedom of association and freedom of expression will be more dominant in determining people’s political behaviour. And that’s a big gamble, especially having Rwanda and Burundi side by side with totally different approaches on how to organize coexistence between ethnic groups that have violently competed. If you consult the literature on powersharing, we should logically conclude that Burundi’s approach stands a better chance of success. But of course, this is not a matter of statistics, it’s a matter of individual practice. AB: Rwanda ticks many boxes in terms of elements of a system of democracy, e.g. the number of women in parliament is exemplary. But at the end of the day, democracy is about the people and this will become a challenge in the long term. It’s an issue of representation and participation and at present people might feel excluded from participation. It brings in another element, namely the weak opposition parties. In terms of capacity building, we need to look at how politics are being managed by political parties and this goes beyond the global South. This and also voter turnout, the involvement of the young people, the development of manifestos, the representation of women, etc. All these things related to the internal political parties’ democracy. We need to look at how to support political parties in order to bring the democracy support agenda further. I think that’s also the case for Rwanda. SV: (agreeing) And it’s a general trend at least for the African continent: the weakness of opposition parties has been a constant. The belief in the possible alternation of power is, I believe, one of the key indicators of democracy. It cannot work if you don’t trust the system, i.e. that tomorrow you can lose, and the day after you can perhaps win. AB: Finally, I want to be straight on this question: 10 is a dictatorship sometimes better than a liberal democracy to maintain peace and stability? It will never work. with? In this context, how can democracy contribute to peace-building between Palestine and Israel? SV: Certainly not to sustain it. AB: We can keep this very short: it’s the people who decide. You and I cannot decide who a country should elect. In the diplomatic world, there are means to work with countries you don’t like or which you don’t agree with. Look at how the West is dealing with Russia at the moment. So I think, it’s crucial that one respects the wish of the people, whether we like it or not. EtC: In June 2014, Juan Manuel Santos was elected for the second time as president of Colombia. It was one of the most dramatic presidential contest in years as the election was widely seen as a referendum on the peace process that Mr Santos’s government began with leftist FARC rebels in late 2012. It is also worth noting that voter turnout was very low (47.89%). Do you think that the extreme polarization and negative climate that characterized this campaign points toward a lack of real stability within the Colombian democracy? What explains the weak voter turnout and the political indifference? Do you think it could threaten the chances Colombia has for peace? Finally, what is your opinion on the current peace-building efforts? Are they building a basis for a durable peace? AB: First and foremost, I am not a Colombian expert but what I have seen, in terms, of the democratic landscape of Latin America is that the challenge is to build institutions that can sustain democracy. Those institutional backups are not there I think. Secondly, in Colombia, the biggest challenges are in terms of crime, drugs and illicit money in politics. Regarding voter turnout, there are always many factors at play. It might be a security issue, it might be that political parties did not reach out the voters. Look at the European elections, why don’t young people vote? In other countries, is it an issue of high levels of voter illiteracy? If one reads this question or this argument a bit the other way around, the tendency is that the more stable the country is, the more democratic it is, the more the voter turnout drops. But when an issue really matters, like in Scotland, people vote. SV: I don’t know that much about Colombia either, but if I were president, campaigning for a new mandate, then framing the campaign as being a question of being for or against the current peace process is politically savvy. If you frame the whole electoral process as being a referendum in favour of or against the peace negotiations with the FARC, which is a national security interest, that is a way to rally people around the flag. EtC: In the highly charged context of Palestine and Israel, the last successful election in the Palestinian territories was held in 2006 and saw Hamas, the religious group considered by many as a terrorist organization, winning the election. The election result brought to light an aspect of democracy that is often forgotten: what happens when the people elect a group that many in the world do not want to deal EtC: But it doesn’t look like it will cont &