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Who will guard the guardians?

The EU has been in the forefront of a campaign to democratize the developing world. Its concern may be appreciated as the autocratic rulers in the global South need lessons on democracy. Respect for dissent is one of the pillars that carry democracy and the EU has been urging the so-called Third World nations to uphold that noble tenet which also underpins the principle of human rights.

But how does the EU act when it is given a choice between respecting dissent and railroading the dissenter into capitulation? Its conduct is no better than President Robert Mugabe's or the late President Saddam Hussein's, when it feels its interests are threatened. Its hypocrisy has become patently clear through its reaction to the outcome of an Irish referendum on the controversial Lisbon Treaty, which is meant to replace the EU Constitution shot down by the French and the Dutch in two referenda in 2005.

The Lisbon Treaty requires unanimous ratification by all 27 member states, if it is to become law. But, the Bill was rejected overwhelmingly by the Irish people. That rejection should have marked the end of the treaty if the EU had really practised what it preached to the developing world-respect for democracy-but, lo and behold, Ireland came under pressure from France and Germany to reverse its position. How would France have reacted, if it had been pressured to change its stand in 2005, when it voted against the EU Constitution?

The one million Euro question is how the EU will reconcile its global campaign to protect democracy with the coercive tactics being used against Ireland with a view to pressure it into submission. It is widely believed that France and Germany are even ready to relegate Ireland to the outer reaches of the EU for her aberrant decision. Such action amounts to bullying a democratic country.

An observation by the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, a crusader for democracy and human rights, is of great import in this regard. He told the British Parliament early this week that Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty had to be respected and a treaty of that nature would come a cropper unless it commanded unanimous support of all 27 members. He said there was no way Ireland could be bulldozed into changing her position.

One may have thought he, as a true democrat, held that the treaty was as dead as a dodo like the EU Constitution. But, unfortunately that was Milliband's feint which was followed by a killer hook. He audaciously declared that the ruling elite of the EU, however, would not accept Ireland's 'courageous' vote! What his newspeak (or Milibandspeak) really meant was that the EU would not give a damn about verdict of the Irish public and Ireland would have no alternative but to toe the line.

Ironically, Miliband's Tory counterpart William Hague happened to remark that though the British government that wanted the Irish to vote twice on the question of the Lisbon Treaty, the British had not been allowed to vote at least once. What has become of the five star democracy of Britain? The Labour government secured the passage of the treaty through Parliament later on and Britain thus became the 19th country to ratify the EU Amendment Bill without a referendum! The Brown government did so while the Tories were in full cry over the Bill, denouncing it and demanding that the verdict of the Irish be respected. An exasperated Conservative Leader David Cameron, whose request for abandoning the Bill had been brushed off by Prime Minister Brown, accused Brown and other EU leaders of trying to pressure Ireland to go for a second referendum and change its position.

There doesn't seem to be any difference between the position taken up by PM Borwn and his EU counterparts and President on the verdict of the Irish public and Mugabe's refusal to accept the result of a recently concluded election. All of them have demonstrated their lack of respect for popular will and political dissent. What moral right do the EU leaders have to keep telling Mugabe to respect popular verdicts?

The message that the EU has sent out is that it is only the voice of the 'ruling elite' that matters in shaping its future. One may need not be surprised as that is the way the affairs of all collectives of nations including the UN are being conducted. Dissenting views are heeded only if they emanate from powerful nations. The weak have to either fall in line or voice their dissent at the risk of being consigned to the outer reaches of the associations concerned. Theirs is not to question why but to shut up and comply.

Whatever other members of the EU may do with the Lisbon treaty, the Irish referendum where it was rejected resoundingly is binding on Ireland according to its Constitution. Therefore, the treaty has already run into a massive legal snag. The only way the EU can clear that obstacle is for Ireland to be made to change its position through another referendum. And the next few months will see her undergo tremendous pressure from her EU allies led by France and Germany to soften her stand.

With the guardians of global democracy acting in such a despicable manner, one may ask, as Juvenal did centuries ago, 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?'-who will guard the guardians? It looks as though the world were moving towards a situation where democracy might have to be saved from the guardians themselves.

The EU has been in the forefront of a campaign to democratise the developing world. Its concern may be appreciated as the autocratic rulers in the global South need lessons on democracy.

Respect for dissent is one of the pillars of democracy and the EU has been urging the so-called Third World nations to uphold that noble tenet which also underpins the principle of human rights.

But how does the EU act when it is given a choice between respecting dissent and railroading the dissenter into capitulation? Its conduct is no better than President Robert Mugabe's or the late President Saddam Hussein's, when it feels its interests are threatened.

Its hypocrisy has become patently clear through its reaction to the outcome of an Irish referendum on the controversial Lisbon Treaty, which is meant to replace the EU Constitution shot down by the French and the Dutch in two referenda in 2005.

The Lisbon Treaty requires unanimous ratification by all 27 member states, if it is to become law. But, the Bill was rejected overwhelmingly by the Irish people. That rejection should have marked the end of the treaty, if the EU had really practised what it preaches to the developing world––respect for democracy––but, lo and behold, Ireland came under pressure from France and Germany to reverse its position. How would France have reacted, if it had been pressured to change its stand in 2005, when it voted against the EU Constitution?

The one million Euro question is how the EU will reconcile its global campaign to protect democracy with the coercive tactics being used against Ireland to pressure it into submission. It is widely believed that France and Germany are even ready to relegate Ireland to the outer reaches of the EU for her aberrant decision. Such action amounts to bullying a democratic country.

An observation by the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, a crusader for democracy and human rights, is of great import in this regard. He told the British Parliament early this week that Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty had to be respected and a treaty of that nature would come a cropper unless it commanded unanimous support of all 27 members. He said there was no way Ireland could be bulldozed into changing her position.

One may have thought he, as a true democrat, held that the treaty was as dead as a dodo. But, unfortunately that was Miliband's feint, which was followed by a killer hook. He audaciously declared that the ruling elite of the EU would not accept Ireland's 'courageous' vote!

What his newspeak (or Milibandspeak) really meant was that the EU would not give a damn about the verdict of the Irish public and Ireland would have no alternative but to toe the EU line.

Ironically, Miliband's Tory shadow William Hague happened to remark that though the British government wanted the Irish to vote twice on the question of the Lisbon Treaty, the British had not been allowed to vote at least once.

What has become of the five star democracy of Britain? The Labour government secured the passage of the treaty through Parliament later on and Britain thus became the 19th country to ratify the EU Amendment Bill without a referendum!

The Brown government did so while the Tories were in full cry over the Bill, denouncing it and demanding that the verdict of the Irish be respected. An exasperated Conservative Leader David Cameron, whose request for abandoning the Bill had been brushed off, accused Prime Minister Brown and other EU leaders of trying to pressure Ireland to go for a second referendum and change its position.

There doesn't seem to be any difference between the position taken up by Brown and his EU counterparts on the verdict of the Irish public and Mugabe's refusal to accept the results of a recently concluded election in Zimbabwe. All of them have demonstrated their lack of respect for the popular will and political dissent. What moral right do the EU leaders have to keep telling Mugabe to respect popular verdicts?

The message that the EU has sent out is that it is only the voice of the 'ruling elite' that matters in shaping its future. One need not be surprised as that is the way the affairs of all collectives of nations including the UN are being conducted. Dissenting views are heeded only if they emanate from powerful nations. The weak have to either fall in line or voice their dissent at the risk of being consigned to the outer reaches of the associations concerned. Theirs is not to question why but to shut up and comply!

Whatever other members of the EU may do with the Lisbon treaty, the Irish referendum, where it was rejected resoundingly, is binding on Ireland according to its Constitution. Therefore, the treaty has already run into a massive legal snag. The only way the EU can clear that obstacle is for Ireland to be made to change its position through another referendum. And the next few months will see her undergo tremendous pressure from her EU allies led by France and Germany to soften her stand.

With the guardians of global democracy acting in such a despicable manner, one may ask, as Juvenal did centuries ago, 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?'––who will guard the guardians?

It looks as though the world were moving towards a situation where democracy might have to be saved from its guardians.

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