The events is Iran are tragic and profoundly unjust. However, we in the Western ‘democracies’ love to point to democratic failures elsewhere and have little inclination to turn a critical eye on our democratic processes. We imagine that we have more or less perfect democracies and that we could never be subject to the kind of oppression that the people in Iran are experiencing. But we shouldn’t be so smug and events in Iran should give us pause to consider our own situation.
In the last General Election in Canada a little less than 60% of registered voters turned out to vote. The Conservatives won about 40% of those votes. This means that about twenty-five percent of registered voters voted for the ruling party. Now given that a certain percentage of adults are registered or cannot register to vote, this means that we can conservatively estimate that perhaps 20% of adults in Canada voted for the ruling party. Now if the Conservatives had won few more seats they would be a majority government and rule as a de facto dictatorship with less that quarter of the people supporting them. (Keep in mind now that given Harper’s complete disregard for the courts in cases when they decide against his agenda when I say a de facto dictatorship I don’t think it is hyperbole) Now such a circumstance must be treated with suspicion and to say that this is democratic is surely questionable. This is particularly disturbing when one considers that all of these candidates were chosen by unaccountable local constituency offices and many of them were parachuted in by the upper management of the party.
Now, as undemocratic as our system is at a practical level, we should keep in mind that if millions of people had massed in Ottawa at Parliament Hill suggesting that the will of the majority is being ignored in the organization of government, our Prime Minister would be even quicker to call out the army to disperse such crowds that the Iranian clerics have been. Anyone who doesn’t believe it is irretrievably naive.
So while you are watching the terrible events unfold in Iran, don’t be so quick to feel comfortable and superior in the nature of our democracy. We have plenty to work on here in our ‘democracies’ and we should get to work.