Sat, Aug 19, 2006 - Page 9 News List

West promoting 'people power' when it suits

The US and the Western media back protests over controversial elections when it is convenient to their interests, but they are keeping silent about the current situation in Mexico

By Mark Almond  /  LONDON , THE GUARDIAN

The days of left-wing fraternalism may be over, but the globalist right has its own network, linking the Spanish conservatives, US Republicans and Calderon's party -- and they provided the key observer.

To paraphrase Stalin: "It doesn't matter who votes, it matters who observes the vote."

Salafranca has a track record as an election observer. In Lebanon's general elections last year he had no problem with the pro-Western faction sweeping the board around Beirut with fewer than a quarter of voters taking part and nine seats gained without even a token alternative candidate.

"It is a feast of democracy," he declared.

His mood changed when the democratic banquet moved to areas dominated by Hezbollah or Christian maverick General Michel Aoun.

Suddenly, "vote-buying" and the need for "fundamental reform" popped up in the EU observation reports.

Unanimity on the scale seen across Lebanon suggests that the cedar revolution -- despite the hype -- did nothing to promote real democratic pluralism. Hezbollah's hold on the south is the most controversial aspect of the sectarian segmentation of Lebanese society, but everywhere local bosses dominate their fiefdoms as before. Similarly, more scepticism about Ukraine's revolution would have left people better informed than the orange boosterism that passed for commentary 18 months ago.

But Mexico is different because it is so under-reported. The cruel reality is that "people power" has become a global brand. But -- like so many global brands -- it is owned by those in the US. Mexicans and any other "populists" who try to copy it should beware that they're infringing a copyright. No matter how many protesters swarm through Mexico City or how long they protest, it is US President George W. Bush and company who decide which people truly represent "The People." People power turns out to be about politics, not arithmetic.

Mark Almond is a history lecturer at Oriel College, Oxford University.

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