By Sanchi Gupta
In the fourth century, Aristotle declared that democracy was a ‘perverted’ form of government. He lived in Ancient Greece, widely believed to be the birthplace of democracy. Centuries later, J.S. Mill, more popularly known as the Father of Liberal Thought, theorized that democracy would result in a ‘tyranny of the majority’. The events of 2016 so far seem to have proved them right.
June: The United Kingdom
In a referendum to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union (EU), 52% of those who turned out to vote chose the former. The decision, which came into force with a tiny margin, led to the resignation of the incumbent Prime Minister. It resulted in the reversal of the process of building a global world order based on the principles of the free market initiated after the end of the Second World War. The main arguments cited in favor of the UK leaving the EU included diminishing sovereignty, over-regulation, unfair budget contributions and the rising wave of immigrants, primarily from Eastern Europe, who were competing for jobs and welfare benefits.
After decades of trying to construct a common ‘European’ identity, this decision of the British people revealed just how stark the feelings of insecurity and superiority had become, as a result of globalization.
June: The Philippines
On June 30, Rodrigo Duterte, popularly known as the ‘Trump of the East’, was elected as the President of the Philippines. Mr. Duterte was formerly the mayor of Davao City. It is alleged that during his term hundreds of people were killed by government-linked ‘death squads’. After just seven weeks of coming into power, the death count of people killed by the police in relation to drug-related offenses stood at nearly 1,800. The youngest victim was only five years old.
The Philippines suffers from a terrible drug abuse problem and one of the highest homicide rates in Asia. For Duterte, the solution is simple: “My order is to shoot and kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you’d better believe me.”
Despite his blatant disregard for human rights and the due process of law, Duterte, and his methods have widespread approval. They are perceived to be the only way left to make the country safe again.
In a referendum, the people of Hungary were asked to vote on the EU plan to relocate refugees amongst the member states. Under the scheme, Hungary would receive less than 1,300 people. The Hungarian Prime Minister, who vehemently opposed the plan, challenged the policy in the European Court. He left the decision up to the people and the referendum question was framed as follows:
98.3% of those who voted rejected the EU plan. The general sentiment was that allowing refugees would disrupt the ‘European’ values and identity of the Hungarian people. Furthermore, in a poverty-ridden nation, many citizens felt that there just were not enough resources and jobs to go around. However, with the turnout being less than 50%, the vote was eventually declared invalid.
October: The Republic of Colombia
Across the world, in another referendum and with another narrow victory, the people of Colombia rejected the peace deal reached between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after four long years of negotiations. FARC is a guerrilla group that has been involved in an armed insurgency against the Colombian government since 1964.
This civil war is considered to be the longest-running armed insurgency in the Western hemisphere. It has led to the death of around 2,20,000 people and displaced millions in Colombia. However, for most voters, the crimes of the rebels were too great to forgive so easily.
Consequently, the people of Colombia chose to walk down the path of uncertain violence instead of giving peace a chance. This, after 52 years of torment.
November: The United States of America
Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States. He has come to power despite losing the popular vote. In many ways, this is the perfect culmination of the series of events that have played out across the world. Fair and free, direct and indirect, elections have yielded results that are going to make the world more divisive, dangerous and exclusionary than perhaps ever before.
As The New Yorker put it, “[this is] a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.” The warnings of the great thinkers ring true before us today. The tyranny of the majority reigns.
Featured Image Credit: Slate