Endorsing Medrek: Liberal Democracy vs. Participatory Democracy vs. Revolutionary Democracy – By Tecola W. Hagos
Professor Teodros Kiros, our distinguished longtime contributor, has argued, in his recent and rather short essay, posted in this Website, about the distinct elements of “participatory democracy” from that of “liberal democracy.” [See Teodros Kiros (Ph.D), “In Defence of Participatory Democracy and against Revolutionary Democracy and Liberal Democracy,” 9 May, 2010]. I did not find the article necessary or enlightening in view of the current neck-and-neck struggle between an entrenched pseudo-fascist Government of Meles Zenawi on one side and the Ethiopian opposition represented by the badly outspent, battered, and gutted opposition such as Medrek.
It is unfortunate that Teodros saw the importance of bringing up, especially at this late hour, some academic distinction between “participatory democracy” and the “liberal democratic” tradition as a major issue, which I am afraid is rather a “storm in a kettle.” I am concerned because of his timing; he would only succeed in polarizing the issue that should be kept distinct between the opposition and the posturing of the current Government of Ethiopia. It is also unfair to group a democratic group like Medrek along with a fascist political organization like EPRDF on one side in apposition to “participatory democracy.” It would confuse and weaken the strength of the overall democratic aspiration of the people of Ethiopia now that they may have to think of another possibility that maybe taken into account in the choice that they might have to make soon.
Participatory democracy is not as clean cut as it is suggested in the article by Teodros. It has its origin in the elements that led Trudeau to win in Canada in the late 60s–populism. [Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from 20 April 1968 to 4 June 1979, and again from 3 March 1980 to 30 June 1984.] In fact, one scholar who studied the phenomenon labeled it as a “pseudo-liberal rhetoric,” [Paul Litt, “Trudeaumania: Participatory Democracy in the Mass-Mediated Nation,” Canadian Historical Review, Volume 89, Number 1 / March 2008.] and it is known also by several euphemistic names too, such as “social democracy,” “progressivism” et cetera. However, one must not forget the fact that all of the ideas of “participatory democracy” are first and foremost democratic ideals of which liberal democracy is fully in sink. It is only the degree of the channel of participation that is in question whether to keep it open as wide as the entire population or have into the system safety valves to direct, in the best interest of the society at large, all that gushing of energy from the general public.
Especially in the Ethiopian setting, where almost every concept of democracy is in the raw, unsophisticated and rustic, in giving certain responsible groups the benefit of the judgments of “the market” to work to their benefit is not that harmful. It reminds me the philosophical works of John Rawls that distributive justice may indeed benefit some even more than others, but the bottom line is that it raises the minimum benefit to all as a base from where to start. And this is much better structure than pushing everyone to a base standard that is drastically lower if we think of using “participatory democracy” as our measuring rod in an Ethiopia where we are fighting fascism.
II. Endorsement of Medrek
After careful studying of the minimum program of Medrek, and after analyzing the many speeches and presentations of the Leaders of Medrek, both here in the United States and in Ethiopia, and most importantly after listening to the Debate of the Representatives of the Ruling Party [EPRDF] and several of the Opposition parties including Medrek, We at this Website have decided to endorse Medrek as the Party-Group that represents the best and vital interest of Ethiopia. We are confident Medrek will heal the many wounds inflicted during the last thirty five years on our Ethiopia. Especially we are cognizant of the fact of the seventeen years suffered under the brutal regime of Mengistu Hailemariam with his Red Terror murderous rampage where no less than one hundred thousand innocent Ethiopians were murdered, which was followed by eighteen years of no less brutal and destructive regime led by Meles Zenawi where the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia was seriously breached and its wealth looted.
We call upon all Ethiopians to set aside their ethnic based affiliations and their animosities, and support Medrek in all legally acceptable ways. This is the one chance, among many we had unnecessarily squandered, where we could be able to channel the course of our future history. Our single enemy is in the Person of Meles Zenawi, with his close associate. I even dare to say the Members of the TPLF are not our enemies, they are simply trapped in a mafia type structure where they are unable to exercise their democratic rights as Ethiopian Citizens. They are forced into adopting a divisive Ethnic identity that challenges and fractures our historic Motherland. The same could be said to each member of the other political Parties in the EPRDF. All such Members must know that there is a great life after Meles Zenawi and his criminal organization setup.
We call upon Professor Mesfin Woldemariam to abandon his very unpopular pursuit of political ambition and find a way to settle his disagreement with the current Leaders of Medrek and stop being a spoiler and endorse Medrek right now. We call upon Engineer Hailu Shawel and other opposition leaders that signed the subversive Code of Conduct, to reestablish working relationships with Medrek and lead a civilized discourse and competition. There is no need for animosity for short term advantages to destroy or handicap any other Opposition group, such as Medrek, such siding or working with Meles Zenawi would only subvert the long term interest of the nation. Most of all such groups must not be used as instruments by Meles Zenawi in order to undermine other opposition groups such as Medrek.
We must not forget that there is another day after the national election of May 28, 2010. We have faith and unwavering confidence in the people of Ethiopia in their wisdom, courage, and generosity of spirit that Ethiopia will prevail and prosper.
God Bless all Ethiopians wherever! God Bless Ethiopia!
Tecola W. Hagos
May 13, 2010