Will henceforth mob decide who is to rule the country, not the ballot box? Is mobocracy now going to be the order of the day, and not democracy? Perhaps yes, if some current events are any guide.
In Ukraine, an elected president has been driven out by protestors holding the capital city of Kiev hostage to their months-long street protest. And in Thailand, an elected prime minister has moved over to her stronghold in the south in the face of unrelenting street protests in capital Bangkok.
Of course, it hasn’t been a plain affair, with disgruntled people storming out on the streets to give vent to their frustration and anger. In both the events, a multiplicity of motives was involved. And arguably it is the outside influence, rather than the genuine grouse, that played the decisive part. After all, even in the most established and stable democratic orders, incumbents often draw angry reactions from their electorates against their policies and programmes. But that doesn’t lead up to their safe exit or escape. They stay in place.
Viktor Yanukovych may have angered his Ukrainian-speaking public in the country’s west by going back on the deal for closer trade association with the European Union (EU) and going instead for Russia-led customs union comprising former Soviet republics. And that public anger may not be all contrived either. The Ukrainians in the west do see better prospects in association with the EU than do the Russian-speaking citizens of the eastern Ukraine who feel greater good in forging closer ties with Russia.
But it would be hard to deny the active European and American role in fuelling up the anti-Yanukovych protests, so blatant was it. European leaders trooped down to Kiev in shoals in wide public view to pat the protestors on the back, egg them on to keeping up with their agitation. They openly and brazenly sided with them, arguably in their long-cherished ambition to expand their influence in the inner edges in Russia’s proximity. The high-ranking officials of the Obama administration too were involved in this instigation game, with a senior official caught on video privately discussing with their Ukraine envoy a regime change in Kiev.
And even as no perceptible foreign backing is in evidence in the Thailand event, the agitation against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has strong domestic political underpinnings visibly. It is deeply rooted in the political frustration of segments of political class having some powerful internal hands on their back. Certain political sections of the country see no future for their politics in the face of Shinawatra family, whose patriarch Thaksin is presently living in exile to escape conviction sentence in a malfeasance case that he terms a frame-up.
The high-ranking officials of the Obama administration too were involved in this instigation game, with a senior official caught on video privately discussing with their Ukraine envoy a regime change in Kiev.
With his populist welfare and development schemes in the country’s impoverished but populous north and north-east regions, Thaksin as prime minister had spawned a strong political support base in these crucial regions before being ousted in a military coup, with some same insist the royal blessings. His younger sister Yingluck is still thriving on that support base, unshakably, politically. The opponents with blockades of government offices and occupation of official buildings have kept her administration paralysed over the past several months. Even the snap poll she held to secure fresh popular mandate they torpedoed by boycotting it in their strongholds in the south.
Although the recent election gave her a massive lead, yet not the quorum required to complete the house because of that boycott. All the while, her opponents, comprising the entrenched bureaucratic establishment, powerful business elites, urbanite middle class, royalists and judiciary are after her. She has though moved over to the family’s northern support base, a charge of negligence has already been laid against her in a case pertaining to the purchase of rice by the government at prices higher than the world market from farmers, mainly concentrated in the country’s northern parts.
But uncomfortable scenarios are emerging. While Yanukovych has sought refuge on the Russian territory, back home an interim president has been elected by the country’s parliament and fresh election is scheduled in the next two months. Furthermore, talk of Ukraine’s breakup is very much in currency. Besides, Moscow is sending out strong signals to the Europeans and the Americans against any further interference in Ukraine. Threatening postures from the two sides to further vitiate the atmosphere cannot be ruled out. And in Thailand, too, talk of the country’s dismemberment into two is being heard, besides the imminence of a military takeover.
So is democracy under threat of mobocracy, with consequences wholly disastrous and baneful? Perhaps. But mobocracy has already claimed a casualty in Egypt, where the street protests ended up in the packing up of the whole shop of democracy with a military takeover, which is promising even the return of the old Mubarak-era order.