The fires, theft, vandalism and confrontation between the police and protestors for around two weeks in France are not surprising even though peaceful and legitimate means in the democratic system, including changing the government, are available. However, this did not convince thousands of protestors!
In France, they are blaming the Russians for standing behind the wave of inciting fake accounts that pushed the angry public to the streets and they called on American President Donald Trump to stop influencing the French public opinion because he was quick to criticize Macron and his government, and blame it.
Have the Russians really infiltrated the French youths’ minds? Have they done so as they were previously accused of interfering in European elections as well as American elections? Is it believable that Trump has all this influence?
Even without the electronic conspiracy theories, chaos contradicts with the values linked to democratic practice. It contradicts the concept that the ballot box is the judge between the people and that it’s on the basis of elections that a president and his government come to power upon the desire of the majority. It violates the principle that the people’s representatives in the parliament are the ones who express this desire. Chaos of course contradicts with the restrictions of freedom of expression that only guarantees the right to peaceful protest and rejects dictating stances by force.
France is the country of revolutions, and the street is once again reviving the controversy about the concept of the choice of governance by the majority, which is the pillar of the western governance systemAbdulrahman al-Rashed
France is the country of revolutions, and the street is once again reviving the controversy about the concept of the choice of governance by the majority, which is the pillar of the western governance system. The Paris unrest happened at the same time as another battle: the vote on Brexit inside the oldest parliament in the world, Westminster. The majority of the British people voted for exiting the EU but most politicians there fear that committing to the result of the popular referendum will harm higher interests and Britain’s future. Despite that, the word is the people’s word as the majority wants to leave the union.
According to the concept that the majority of voters decide who rules, Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency with 66 percent of the votes. However, around 100,000 of the Yellow Vest protestors forced him to repeal his decisions and they succeeded. He backed down on raising the prices of fuel and the tax and despite that the chaos went on. The same thing pretty much happened with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she imposed the poll tax and protestors took to the streets of London to oppose the move.
Back then she said: “Elections are once and not every day. They elected me to make decisions.” Despite that they got her to resign from the premiership before finishing her term. The system in the US is presidential, hence, the president is the least subject to earthquakes and he is only impeached if he commits constitutional violations or felonies punishable by law.
Democracy has walked a long course and improvements have been made to this old theory as legislators included many amendments to it in order to end the accusation that it’s the majority’s dictatorship. What are the rights of the weaker categories in society? Many legislations which were introduced contradict the democracy of the ballot box and the concept of the majority’s governance, such as imposing women’s rights and ethnic and religious rights, in order to protect them from the dominance of the ruling majority.
Today, there is a new problem as public opinion is no longer the opinion of the people but it can be directed by parties that want to change the rules of the game, such as foreign powers. An angry minority that thinks the solution is in the street can also overturn the formula and thwart the decisions of the majority’s “ruler.”
Major democratic countries often lectured small or developing states with limited capabilities and experiences and asked why they don’t leave the windows open to all movements and currents. Today, these major ancient societies themselves can no longer bear leaving social media networks open to all foreign ideas. Ever since the end of the American elections two years ago and up until today, there have been suspicions about foreign influence and in the results too. The open democratic game has become politically expensive.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.