Stability and Status-quo

Is it possible to avoid Status-quo when hearing demands for stability?

Political atmosphere in many developing countries is subject to instability and recession in times. For the under-developed or stagnated states, there is usually a list of symptoms that give away the reasons of backwardness; and most of those lists include corruption, inequality, maltreatment of minorities and huge gaps between economic classes. In some cases a movement or a political party might emerge to bring vitality to the static unjust governance to answer needs for transformation.

The generally perceived code of such movements –if not stopped by government forces- include respect for human rights, intolerance against corruption and social welfare. Such movements are received well by the electorate in free and fair elections, and have the power and responsibility to transform the country they lead. They have all the support they need and can do a lot with the parliamentary representation; they reflect the general will of the people after all.

In order not to let things diverge from the original purpose, the new movements need to act rapidly. If they can do so, the system of unjust rule and irregular growth ceases to supply former era’s much disdained leaders. It also helps not getting involved with the prolonged social-tradition of corruption and becoming part of the system. If the transformist movements act slow and lose the initial urge to implement real change all over the country, sooner or later the former rule will overflow the newcomer movement and transformation will slow down after a few reforms.

Time patterns

How long does it take for transformation to happen? That question varies according to the demographics and development level of countries. Although one thing is for sure, that is the constitutional change to begin with. If one is to compare all the latecomer members of the European Union after its initial establishment with six member states, it is a highly common pattern –with few exceptions- to hold referenda on a new constitution which is prepared only shortly after the transformist movement emerges or comes to power. A new constitution is the key for completion of all the initial goals and achieving a truly democratic and progressive system.

Some cases might experience the transformation very slowly and postpone new constitution. Especially the Greek example of not handling the change on time has resulted in a system that keeps evaporating the sources and diminishing the society’s hopes. Obviously when the doors of Europe was first opened to Greece, there was need for a clear understanding of democratic governance that would empower the people over the state and government would be responsible for even the smallest of things it did. This did not happen, and the current situation after three decades shows that transparency is a long lost application in Greek finances, and the people have to pay for it in the end.

The end of Dictatorial Reign in Greece throughout 60s and early 70s was followed by democratic governance but the transition took place too fast and it was not internalized enough. The newly adopted rules and regulations in the society did not reflect upon a thoroughly democratic approach, limiting the inalienable rights of certain parts of the society and not being open enough for every citizen to keep the state at his/her service. In the end the Greek stated evolved from totalitarian governance to a more open and democratic entity, yet this did not meet the international standards; and even long after the implementation of the legislature, this still carried on until very late 90s.

No haste but speed

Hastily taken decisions might prove wrong; so, important issues like constitutional change should be handled step by step and be debated openly by the public. If these steps are not carried out in well-manners, the outcome will be very similar to earlier practice. Each article in the constitution should be discussed in every aspect and not only define the cultural values of the society that will live by those rules and also guide them for a brighter and more civilized way of life which meets the international standards and hopefully even goes beyond.

Timely adopted norms might be crucial in terms of democratization of even a wider geography. When perestroika was adopted in Eastern Europe and Gorbachev in a way liberalized the former satellite states’ economies, it led to a chaotic downturn, but the European Union as a solid example just next door, managed to transform a whole half-continent peacefully, only failing in a few countries.  The states that reformed their political governance and constitutional schema achieved a more or less transparent and peaceful system, which –alongside many problems- still gives people hope about a better future.

In the countries that got separated from Former Yugoslavia, this process took place in a very different way. The amendments to the jurisdiction did not take place in an open way and not embracing all segments of the society. Such exclusive jurisdictions might make a small minority feel privileged but nothing more; at least not for those masses that do not approve of the government but cannot (or will not) unite against it.

It is important to prepare new constitutions that would be welcomed by at least 90% of the society and guarantee the rights and responsibilities of all against all. It is important to adopt such legislature as soon as possible in the transformation agenda, in order not to diverge from original purpose and fall into the web of status quo. It is important not to give way to simple majority’s tyranny over all…

Prolonged reforms diverge

Once the opportunity is lost in establishing social peace and progress in a democratic direction, public support for democracy might not be as high as it used to be. New constitutions must be adopted in the first couple of years of the transformist movement’s governance; or the status quo supporters start digging their way into the newly establishing system and act as a natural and biological part of the transformation, finally to claim its presence in the new system as a whole. In the end the expected sweeping reforms and radical changes do not take place. The new system can welcome many for a while, and there will be a lot of people benefiting from the radical reforms that bring vitality to economy.

Bubbles will explode

Economic progress can be made, without a sustainable background. Growth rates could be inflated with the balloon effect. Bubbles can be seen everywhere. In such cases there is usually a few system-friendly “professionals” claiming that “the economy is doing fine and stability is important. The achieved growth rates, if continued, will lead to a perfect position for the country in the very near future.” Such statements aim to create the vision of a hopeful future in economy, which in most cases has to come before democratic governance for the sake of survival. When the reform pace is lost after the first term, the only thing that can bring all the social vitality back is economy.

Privatization, loans, injection of huge sums of investments in the country might save the economy for a while, but without the proper tools to control the flow of liquid, it is hard to grasp where all the investments end up and who benefits from them. The infrastructure that makes up the majority of the new investments is something expensive and it is the kind of thing that should sustain the country for at least a few decades. If the transparency and accountability laws are not armed with necessary laws against the system-leechers it will have to fail all in the end. Not immediately but steadily; and bubbles will explode eventually to let another period of transition to find roots-movement again.

Reforms sustain status quo

In order not to let “all-the-systems-men” exploit every opportunity of transformation periods, urgent changes and amendments have to take place much more rapidly than most countries are experiencing today. In the Middle East and Northern Africa, some countries have experienced bloodshed and revolutions, after which there are debates on how to prepare a new constitution. As the opposition groups in those countries are inexperienced and were left without any opportunity until recently, it is going to be a hard process to carry on, but it will finally lead to a more progressive future.

The reformed constitutions step by step include the old system in its mainstream. This is a direct challenge to democratization of a country. If the old system’s supporters do not really welcome reforms and internalize them, or moreover act in hypocrisy, reforms will not lead to anything progressive. The old tyrants will only have changed face and all will be the same. After a certain period of time, the transformist government will be viewed as the embodiment of “change” in the country and accuse all opposition with backwardness, for representing the old system; while it would be the slowly-transforming governments that save the status-quo and include it in the new system as well. For example countries like Syria, in order to avoid a massive revolution tend to reform their systems. Governments resign and new ones get appointed soon enough. As the system survives, same results emerge again and again. Major change cannot be achieved through reforms in such countries that do not observe the democratic process freely. The breakaway from the tyranny of the old system has to be quick and led by masses. The end result might not be ultimate democratic society in the first step, but it is a good start.

More democracy can be asked for any time

Slavoj Zizek comments on the demonstrations in Ljubljana and finds the resemblances to those that took place in 1989. He says “people still want the same thing, more democracy”. This happens in an EU member state that has more or less transformed itself. But unlike those that have reformed their legislature, Slovenia people can protest in the squares without some of them dying or being shot down by government’s forces. So, she is still in transformation process but achieving much better than reformist ones.

If a reforming country in the Arab world would ever allow a demonstration like in Slovenia, no one can think it would not be like Mubarak’s or Qaddafi’s end. Iran as an example was welcomed by certain western philosophers to be a genuinely crafted government that can bring out democracy from its culture, and through reforms it fell into a more tyrannical entity distant to the demands of her society and very far away from democratic norms.

Gürkan Özturan

29 March 2011

Istanbul

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