Democracy too is in deep transformation

They are educated, attractive, well-dressed, well-raised and with no criminal records. Yet, they have been on the streets of Sofia in Bulgaria because they want their government to step down.

For thirty days and more the Bulgarians have been demonstrating pressing their demand in perhaps one of the most peaceful manner the world has ever seen in recent past. The government hasn't resigned yet and Bulgarians haven't given up either. They are determined to occupy the streets in Sofia till their government steps down.

Bulgarians took to street when their government appointed Delyan Peevski as the head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS). People of this east European nation did not approve of the appointment and the government, under mounting popular pressure, revoked the appointment hoping that the campaign would fizzle out. Protests, on the contrary, went on and people refused to go back home. They called for resignation of the government.

The protestors comprised "the generation which, for the first time in Bulgarian modern history, could read world news, travel widely and compare." They are not to be satisfied by the recantation of Delyan Peevski's appointment. They are incensed at the manner in which their government appointed Delyan Peevski in defiance of the popular sentiments of the Bulgarians. There was a "complete lack of communication and understanding between citizens and decision makers." Bulgarians would not tolerate such lack of transparency.

The Bulgarian protest isn't what most would understand and, in essence, way ahead of what we have lately witnessed in Turkey, Brazil and Egypt. The emerging paradigms are profound and laden with potentials to set in a long-awaited process to transform democracy and governance of twenty first century.

Julian Popov, chairman of the Bulgarian School of Politics, calls this a paradigm of permanent and proactive civic presence in public affairs. It shows that the citizens are out there, watching constantly and ready to act and to block anybody's intention to privatise the public agenda. The streets of Bulgaria prove that not only are the nations but also democracy is currently in deep transition.

Explosions of anger and defiance of authorities seen in Egypt, Turkey and Brazil ought to be seen as ingredients of the process of evolution democracy is currently undergoing. Time has changed; we are into twenty first century. Aspirations of people, especially those who were born in late eighties and early nineties, have changed. Their perception of governance, concept of public probity and expectations from their governments are different today. They want to be consulted, informed and have their wills respected.

This generation wants democracy and they support this socio-economic political system. Yet, they want democracy to change, rather evolve with the changing time and dynamics. And as the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says, democracy is a way to decide who the decision-makers will be, not a substitute for making decisions. The focus is on efficacy — the ability of the government to deliver, to fulfil popular aspirations and weed out corruption. Therefore, whatever is happening in Bulgaria, Egypt, Turkey and Brazil are "examples of the interplay … between democracy, protest, and government efficacy."

For past two decades, most so since 2008 when the current bout of financial downturn struck the world, a churning has been underway which has most perceptibly in democracies. In India, we saw thousands of people — educated, suave, successful professionals, housewives, students, old and young and primarily from middle class — pouring on the streets demanding a transparent and corruption-free administration. Across the United States, Britain, France and other European nations ninety nine per cent of the population occupied landmark junctions for days on end. They never demanded resignation of governments but sought, in no uncertain terms, equitable distribution of national wealth and wanted the governments to listen to their voices.

Peoples' outburst in Rio and Istanbul brought to limelight the power of rising middle class in both the cities and countries. Thousands of Brazilians poured out into the streets of Rio demanding from their government more investments in public services rather than spending billions into preparations for 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Turkey came to a boil when thousands gathered at Taksim Square in their bids to prevent destruction of Gezi Park. Brazilians were incensed when the government hiked public transport fares.

Brazilian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Indian, Egyptian and Occupy Wall Street outbursts are expected to have far reaching impacts on global administrations and politics. These demonstrations or campaigns would not lead to any regime change like what the Arab Spring achieved in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. However, the governments across the world have to undertake a re-look at development which must be inclusive.

The governments, especially in democracies cannot remain smug to the plights of common people. The age of revolts even in democracies has arrived. Extravagancies like setting up shopping malls at the cost of greenery and spending billions for football World Cup and Olympics cannot be justified if plights of people are ignored and bartered to gain political mileage.

Egypt, exploding in rage for second time in two years and pulling down two successive presidents, has a lesson or two to teach democracies. Government must deliver, governments must weed out corruptions, governments have to be transparent and ensure better participation of people. Else, people will hit the streets and protest en masse.

The rapidly turning events in Egypt, snowballing protest campaigns happening on the streets of Bulgaria, Turkey and Brazil are manifestations of the deep transformation which have put democracy in the process of changing. The change is not expected overnight but it is certain that the growing anger of the people across the world against their governments, politicians and politics will force changes. Democracy will change.

The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman.


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