The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 19, 2012

Our View: Stress on democracy

Important elections were held over the weekend in Greece and Egypt. In Greece, the stark choice for voters was between supporting imposed austerity measures to enable Greece to continue to receive loans from Europe, or rejecting such mandated cuts in social spending.

The election of pro-austerity candidate Antonis Samaras, of the New Democracy Party, has both Europe and the United States breathing a sigh of relief.

The opposition, led by Alexis Tsipras, vows to thwart efforts by the New Democrats to enter further negotiations with strong financial institutions in Europe and around the world.

According to The Associated Press, Sunday’s vote “will probably ease fears of an imminent Greek euro exit,” said Martin Koehring of the Economist Intelligence Unit. “But the key question is: How quickly can a government be formed?”

With 129 of the Parliament’s 300 seats, the conservative New Democracy Party lacks enough legislators to govern alone. It must seek allies among the pro-bailout socialists, who came in third. Samaras, who now has three days in which to build a coalition, said he wanted to form a government with long-term prospects.

Egypt has an even more difficult situation ahead. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, claimed an electoral victory over his opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, while at the same time Shafiq claimed his own victory. Final vote tallies are not expected to be released until Thursday.

However, the ruling military junta — backed by the Egyptian judiciary — ruled that the Egyptian Parliament, with the Muslim Brotherhood holding a majority after elections about three months ago, is unlawful and has closed parliamentary doors. If that ruling is upheld, it will make no difference which party’s candidate wins the presidential election. The military junta will retain the real power of the government in such a case.

Greece is deeply divided over economic interests and challenges. Egypt is in political turmoil over accepting an Islamic form of government, espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood, or a secular government, backed by military influence and raw power. Both countries seem to be politically split almost in half in supporting one side or the other.

Such a political divide confronts America this year as well. In our view, our own presidential election will be decided by only a few percentage points in the popular vote. Yet the Democratic and GOP campaigns are very sharply divided over how to govern America in the next four years.

Significant political differences — differences decided by very small popular majorities — place tremendous stress on democracies throughout the world, particularly the Western world today.

The solution for any democracy is leadership — the ability of the elected leaders to effectively govern among significant political division, regardless of which political power gains the majority. It has been a very long time since America has seen such apolitical leadership, in our view. Today, we need it, desperately.

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