Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Transitions in a democracy

This is Joseph.

Oliver Dowden is the chairman of the UK conservative party and a member of parliament. In the middle of a series of scandals with the current UK Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) he apparently made this quote:

Maybe I am not the target audience. And it is true that there is a lot going on in European politics at the moment that might benefit from consistent policy. But France has managed to have a successful election and it was far from the end of the world. 

The real issue here is the authoritarian impulse here. There are many reasons not to change leaders at a specific point in time. Perhaps the leader is widely popular and is fulfilling a mandate successfully. Or they have the support of the wide majority of the party who agrees with the policies. 

But something as vague as the national interest is an argument so vague it suggests never changing leaders. The whole point of democracy is short term instability and change to ensure that there is a method to obtain popular legitimacy. Governments in the UK have changed at many points of major turmoil -- July 1945 anybody? Or the US had an actual election during a civil war.

Leadership change is a natural part of the democratic process and it is never great when the normal process of transition is disrupted or disputed. We just need to be robust enough as a democratic society to handle transitions of power when it is called for (varies between a presidential and parliamentary system) and to have a strong civil service and judiciary to ensure consistency of the  legal structure (including changes in the legal structure) to ensure that business has a favorable regulatory environment to allow for prosperity. 

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