Saturday, July 27, 2013

Free at Last?

After years of droning on that rule of law is an important component of democracy despite common belief that honest voting is the only measure of democracy, this is heartening to hear from the streets of Bulgaria:

Although Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the E.U. in 2007, many Bulgarians feel that their country has failed to break with its communist past. In addition to expressing discontent with what many perceive to be a dysfunctional coalition government – which took office after a snap election in May – the protests have also focused on alleged government corruption and stagnation in the political system.

The protesters themselves – who are, in general, young, well-educated and economically independent – are clear about what they want to achieve. “First of all, people want the resignation of the government,” says Lilia Apostolova, a 42-year-old managing director for a leading business media group in Bulgaria. “Then they want to change the political system and they want the rule of law.”

They want rule of law! After more than two decades of voting that has given them corrupt governments, there are Bulgarians who want the rest of the ingredients for democracy. Under communism, Bulgarians had neither honest voting nor rule of law. Perhaps they will finally get both.

Remember this when you dismiss the Arab Spring as a failure. This will take time. People want democracy. But those who have lived without it don't really know what democracy is. And too many who live in a democracy fail to appreciate rule of law as a crucial part of making our democracy work.

Bulgarians have had the advantage of not having a violent and aggressive ideology waiting in the wings to claim democracy failed since voting alone didn't resolve their governance problem.