Friday, June 10, 2011

US Democracy Not Much Better than the Middle Eastern Regimes

With the sweeping political unrest in the Middle East, two authoritarian regimes, Egypt and Tunisia have fallen, Libya is near fallen with western military assistance, and Yemen and Syria are teetering on falling, while other countries like Bahrain are suppressing political oppression.

The source of the Middle Eastern unrest must be attributed, fundamentally, to the authoritarian regimes, coupled with other factors such as economic and advanced social networking technology. In a democracy, a government not performing well would be replaced with another government, without uprooting the whole system.

In the Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA)’s global study on electoral fairness, the FDA auditors identified extreme electoral unfairness in Syria, Egypt (under Mubarak), and Tunisia (under Ben Ali), whereby the state through its laws and their enforcement has a firm control of the country—control of the media and the electoral process. FDA auditors gave Syria and Egypt 0% scores for electoral fairness, and Tunisia a 10% score.

In the FDA’s electoral fairness audit of the US federal electoral system, FDA auditors uncovered a similarity with the Middle Eastern countries—state control of the media and electoral process. However, the difference with the US electoral system and Middle Eastern electoral systems is that paradoxically, freedom is used to control the masses, whereas in the Middle East, restrictions on freedom is used.

In the United States, there are no restrictions on the political content of media and broadcasters (except for the public realm), and there are no private electoral spending limits, and public electoral funding favors the dominant parties. Through partisan major media and broadcasters and the unlimited private electoral spending whereby Obama’s electoral spending reached almost $800 million in 2008, a two-party system is perpetuated. The United State’s two-party system is a product of the United States’ electoral, media, and constitutional laws. Equally as important, in the United States there is a union of major media and broadcasters with government. This union which represents large core of power is choking US democracy by limiting public electoral choice and eliminating electoral success for small and new political parties.

On the hand, in the Middle East, the state controls through its unfair laws which center on state ideology and suppression of political opposition. On the other hand, in the United States, the state controls through freedom of speech within a union of major media with government and significantly unfair electoral laws. Both approaches, freedom and no freedom, amount to suppression and control of the people.

In the FDA electoral fairness study, FDA auditors reached consensus on a failing score of 30% for the US federal electoral system:

The FDA made five recommendations to improve US electoral fairness:

1) Reform the US Election Act and US Communications Act so that 3 months prior to a federal election, during a federal election, and 1 month after a federal election, the political content of all registered parties are equal in terms of non-partisanship, frequency, and depth in the US public and private media and broadcasters.

2) Reform the US Election Act so that all registered candidates and parties have equal campaign finances.

3) Reform the US Election Act so that all registered parties and their leaders have the same opportunity to participate in national debates.

4) Reform the US Election Act so that there is an equality of third-party electoral spending. (See the FDA’s 100% scoring for electoral fairness for details: 

5) Reform the US Election Act so that the registration of federal political parties is based on member support equivalent to .5% of the voting population and a national party platform--regardless of ideology and as opposed to a special interest(s) or issue(s) platform.

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