1 Dec '13     home | more politics

Democracy, Violence and Protests

Is it sometimes necessary for a democracy to protect itself against protesters? Is force (violence) sometimes needed for the sake of stability and order compatible with democracy? Egypt's military has employed force against people protesting its coup against President Morsi, claiming that it was doing so for the sake of order, the will of the people and against mob violence. Egypt's military leader, General Abdel Sisi, would answer the opening question here in the affirmative. However one might disagree, there is a clearer case for the affirmative happening this day in Thailand.

In Thailand, political conservatives lost the parliamentary elections in 2011, resulting in Yingluck Shinawatra being able to form a government and become prime minister. The protests are being led by the foremost loser of that election. These are not democracy loving people. They are opposed to higher taxes for development programs. They have no issue regarding malfeasance in office. They accuse her of being controlled by her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a reformer overthrown by a military coup in 2006 and hero to many common people. The protesters chant, "Kill the Thaksin regime." On November 28 a no-confidence vote against Ms Shinawatra was attempted in parliament, and according to Reuters News she "easily" won. Those who had been protesting are not satisfied and not willing to wait for new election campaigns. Today, December 1, crowds assaulted television stations and government buildings, and the protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, gave the prime minister an ultimatum of two days to "return power to the people."

The prime minister announced last week she would not use force against protesters occupying government ministries. She did not have Thaugsuban arrested. She was straining not to inflame the mob. Today, her actions continue to be defensive. The police have erected concrete and razor-wire barricades. From behind the barricades the police have issued warnings on loudspeakers, telling the mobs to move back, and to make their point they have fired tear gas and showered the crowd with stinging pepper spray.

The answer to the questions posed at the beginning of this article appears to me to be yes: Force (violence) is sometimes needed for the sake of stability and democracy. It's something for the Left to think about as well as those on the Right.

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