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Demonstration Elections and the Subversion of Democracy

Kenneth E. Bauzon

Working Papers - Programa Teoría de las Relaciones Internacionales from Argentine Center of International Studies

Abstract: One of the presumed components of liberal democracy is the principle of pluralism. This principle is presumably premised on the idea that political power in society is dispersed, that it is not concentrated in one group or class, that relationship among groups – regardless of size -- is constantly shifting, that the citizenry make choices freely, that citizens from all walks of life and from all sectors of society participate openly and responsibly, and that the outcome of the electoral contest is legitimate and valid. This paper tests these assumptions and arrives at quite different, often opposite, set of conclusions. By deploying the concept of "demonstration elections" originally used by Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead in a 1984 book of the same title, this paper finds that, in the cases examined herein, pluralism often means elite-led for it is the elites – social, economic, and military -- that have the most resources and, therefore, the most at stake in the outcome of the political contest. Often, it is they – with their control over means of propaganda to sway public opinion in their favor – who dictate the political agenda of the country and, further, define the terms and format of democratic discourse, indeed even the meaning of democracy itself. A further question is examined, and this pertains to the impact of the foreign policy of a powerful country whose national interest is no respecter of political boundaries and which, therefore, seeks to predetermine the outcome of domestic political processes of smaller and vulnerable countries. The case examined here is that of the United States whose foreign policy demeanor warrants a critical look inasmuch as it presents itself at every opportunity as a model and champion of democracy. This paper finds a remarkable consistency and constancy of US interests over time, and these contrast with a remarkable lack or absence of consistency and constancy in US adherence to democratic principles, also over time. This explains to a significant degree the varying attitudes of the US towards the electoral processes of diffferent countries under different sets of circumstances. As examined here, these attitudes may pertain to the following sets of circumstances: a. Elections that have to take place by all means (Show Elections); b. Elections that could not be alllowed to take place by all means (Preempted Elections); and c. Elections that could not be prevented and whose results could not be accepted by all means (Illegitimate Elections). In repeated instances among the cases examined, what is found most lethal to democracy is the combination of domestic elite interest with the foreign policy interest of the US in predetermining the outcome of the political process.

Keywords: Elections; Democracy; United States; Foreign Policy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
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