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Ever since the powerful international community interests made democracy the preferred governance model, most nations have been forced to get on board or face sanctions or international isolation. As a result, leaders with the most autocratic tendencies have been compelled to mask these tendencies for the sake of survival. Beneath the veneer of a seemingly dogged commitment to respecting the will of the people, there lies the seething disdain for a government for the people, by the people. Their autocratic proclivities are hidden in a carefully designed pageantry that bestrides the world stage. The pomp of democracy is a delicate balancing act that ensures that the international community is never perturbed. Hence, the result is not organic democracy, only the pageant of democracy.
THE GREAT ARBITERS OF DEMOCRACY
The literature overwhelmingly suggests that democracy began with the Greeks. It is difficult to argue with this, the word ‘demos’ means the people and ‘cracy’ has its etymological roots with the Greek word ‘Kratos’ which is Greek for power or rule. However, some scholars are not too quick to submit to this seemingly academic orthodoxy. In his intervention, ‘Democracy before Democracy?’, Schemeil (2000), pointed out that way before the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians practiced this system of government. This scholar documented how the aforesaid civilizations counted votes, submitted disputes to independent courts and convened numerous assemblies. Therefore, any Eurocentric suggestion that democracy began in Europe and is only a phenomenon associated with that continent should not be taken as serious. Despite this knowledge, countries of the Western Hemisphere project themselves as the great arbiters of democracy, perhaps with the chutzpah of believing that they are the originators. As a consequence, we easily cede the moral high ground on this system of government to those who proclaim to be the great arbiters.
MASTERING THE ART
The art of appearing to be committed to democracy begins with proficiency with national elections. Once you can present an election that is free and fair with no significant evidence of fraud, you are in the clear. The international community cannot move unless there is clear evidence that the will of the people has been tampered with. They have set the bar high for not recognizing elections. Therefore, clever autocrats have devised innovative schemes to ensure that the pageantry of democracy is carefully choreographed, especially on elections day. Once you get pass the Observers report, the declaration and the statements of congratulations from the powerful economic players, it is back to the democratic camouflage. Elections are sine qua non for legitimacy.
THE MULTILATERAL FLAW
Once under the garb of democracy as accepted by the international community, the carefully orchestrated and subtle repression begins. As the evidence emerges, the multilateral organizations seek refuge under their favorite phrase: ‘all local remedies must be explored’. So as the people die, the autocrats who are dressed for the pageantry of democracy, skillfully navigate the multilateral procrastination. Sham investigations are held and the justice system is stretched to the limit to run the clock to ensure that the appearance of all local remedies being exhausted, is being done. This is the dark art of the pageantry of democracy. Cook and Siegle (2021) noted that Africa will see 13 elections in 2021. They have observed that those elections will merely present a fig leaf of legitimacy for leaders who lack a mandate. Despite these concerns, carefully staged pageants of democracy will secure the nod from the arbiters of democracy.
Those who master the art, enjoy the political advantage.