Is a Referendum a Valid Tool for Democracy?

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Ebbw Vale Steelworks in 1969 By Peter Benton, CC BY-SA 2.0, Vale Steelworks in 1969 By Peter Benton, CC BY-SA 2.0,
William Shakespeare would have loved to see the Brexit. Many of his themes are there: friendship and treason; truth and lies; deception and betrayal.

leggi in [ita]


leggi in [ita]

William Shakespeare would have loved to see the Brexit. Many of his themes are there: friendship and treason; truth and lies; deception and betrayal. Cameron invents a referendum as a trick to get more power from the EU, and unify the Tory party under his leadership. He ends instead out of Europe, with a possible secession from Scotland, and problems with North Ireland. His friend Boris Johnson, who turns anti EU to get Cameron job, has betrayed him. But Johnson does not run for PM, because his friend Michael Gove has betrayed him. And the Brexit has as a collateral damage the leader of the other party, the Labour, with the majority of his parliamentarian asking Jeremy Corbin to go. He rejects, claiming that the majority of the members of the party are with him. But then, the parliamentarians do not represent the electorate?
The Brexit gives a strange show of the British political system, considered always the best example of parliamentarian democracy. A referendum is not the basis of a parliamentarian system, where elections are based on parties, with a strong identity and history. Labour’s electors vote Labour. But a referendum becomes a transversal issue, and in Brexit one third of them has voted against the position of the Trade Unions and of the party, which were for the Remain.
The same has happened with the Tories. At least 35% voted against Cameron campaign for the Remain. In fact, people voted according what they felt was their identity. So London and other cosmopolitan citizens, voted for Remain. Those from the rural world, those who felt left out, voted massively for the Brexit. Enough has been written about this. And how this kind of neoliberal globalization has failed, creating a growing large part of the population angry and destitute. But going back to debate is a Referendum is a tool for democracy, let us see which were the arguments for the Brexit, that brought 17 million people to vote to get out from the EU. Well, they were false, as the main campaigners for the Brexit themselves, Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson have admitted.
The argument that the UK was giving to Brussels 350 million pounds per week, and this money would go instead to the National Health System, was a fraud. The net contribution to the EU are 150 millions a year, net of what the UK receives form the EU. Brussels’s silence on this issue was grave mistake, due to the idea to avoid to meddle in internal politics.
Also the argument that by leaving UE, the UK would recover “its independence”, as Johnson said in his closing speech, and the control of its borders was clearly false. Any future relation with the EU, that would keep UK exports to Europe without customs (they are 44% of the total British exports), will entail free circulation of European citizens (180.000 last year, out of a total of 330.000). Britain has already the control over the extra European. To make this credible, the tabloids, which are the real winners of Brexit, launched a campaign indicating that 70 million Turks could invade Britain. This was really a fraud. Turkey is not a member of the EU, and just one vote from any member country could block any request of admission. This was usually Germany’s line, until Merkel asked Erdogan help to block migrants, by giving the EU the task to pay 3 billion euro. But it never went to promise admission. At the moment of the vote, 45% thought it was imminent. Tabloids also announced that after the Brexit, criminals and terrorist would be immediately deported to their country of origin, and of course nobody talks any longer of this now. And it was also a fraud to assure that all the subsidies coming from the EU would be substituted by government’s funds. So for instant, voters from the small town of 18.000 people, Ebbw Vale, in Wales, had the highest vote for Brexit: 63%, With an unemployment of 40%, its only real income were the EU development funds: Ebbw Vale got 420 million euro for its industrial development: 40.5 millions for a professional institute, with 29.000 students; 36 million for a new train’s line; 96 million for upgrading its roads: and 14.7 millions that citizens did receive at different title. There were very few immigrants. EU did commit to Wales 2.200 million euros within 2.020. Will now the government replace those?
In fact, the referendum has created a dramatic intergenerational problem. The people over 55 did vote at nearly 70% for the Brexit. Those until 25 years, voted 75 5 for Remain. But only 50% of them went to vote, against 68% of the old citizens. Therefore, the old people have decided the future of the young ones. This in a progressively ageing world, with fewer young, should have people thinking.
So the question is: with poorly informed people, manipulated by a campaign of fear and lies, is a yes or no referendum a tool of democracy?
But things are more complicated. We live in an era of post ideologies and post parties. To be at left or at right is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Without ideologies, discarded with the collapse of Berlin’s wall, politics are becoming just an act of administrative action, where differences disappear. Parties without ideologies carry little motivation and identity. Gone are the times when they were based on strong membership, with a vibrant youth wing. Parties are becoming just movements of opinions, which mobilize citizens just to vote in a temporary campaign, where hired experts of marketing tools and other instruments of mass communication, have replaced debates about visions and values. This cost more money than volunteers, and corrupts politics, as it is becoming evident. More important yet, Internet and new technologies have changed how people relate to politics. The relation between the parties and voters is not any longer direct, and vertical, as it was at the time of the radio and the TV. Let us take the last important elections in Europe: those for mayors of Italy. A tide of young and untested mayors took over from an older generation. A research in Rome made by Pragma Sociometrica has found out that 36% of voters still use the TV as primary instrument of information, but 26% use the net. Friends and relatives account for just 5%. And for deciding the vote, 46% has made its own judgment in Internet on Raggi, the new young lady mayor of Rome, and only 18% used Internet and voted the oldest candidate, Giachetti. Dialogue with the candidates on Internet is preferred by 58% of the voters; then comes 48% for videos, then Facebook for 33%. And finally, photos with 30%. Clearly, the great popular meetings filling public squares are something of the past…
The American website “Vox technology” has published an article: “How Internet is destroying politics”. Web Amazon has decimated libraries. ITunes and Pandora, with on line’s music, have uprooted the power of recording houses. In transportation, Uber the taxi’s monopoly. Now is the time of the political system, is the article’s thesis. The net is progressively reducing the power of the traditional system of information, and it gives the progressive candidate Sanders as an example. No media or any Democrat guru, like Paul Krugman, supported Sanders policies, denounced as unrealistic. Yet Sanders has been immune to this campaign. Why? Because Sanders’ supporters did not read papers, but went on the net, and created their own circle, immune to the traditional information’s system, where Clinton was overwhelming.
According the pollster from El Pais, the Brexit in the recent Spanish elections, pushed people to take less risks, and reinforcing the governing Popular Party (regardless of a string of corruption cases), and reducing the appeal of Podemos, the party of alternative. Yet Le Pen, the French rightist leader, called a press conference to welcome Brexit, like Trump, Gehert Wilders and all the leaders of the xenophobic, nationalist and populist parties which are growing everywhere. There are already in power in Poland, Hungary, and Slovaquia…and if Brexit has a domino effect, (as many fear), the future is going to be not helpful for democracy. Already several of them has been calling for their national referendum, convinced that they would all be like Brexit…Campaign of fears will run all over Europe
We have now an unexpected observatory coming up soon. Austrian elections, where the extreme right wing lost for just 30.000 votes, have been annulled for irregularities, and new ones are dues.  This time victory should be clearer. If the extreme right wing wins, this will have a strong impact in the coming elections in France and Germany. And then, the destiny of Europe as a political project will be sealed.
Will be able the traditional political elite to take lessons from the reality, and change austerity for growth, banks as a apriority of youth, come back to a debate of ideas and visions, values and ideals? Start to discuss at least social remedies to the disasters of an unregulated globalization? Or it will repeat the Byzantines discussing about the angel’s sex, while the Arabs were entering in Costantipolis?

* Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

::autore_::by Roberto Savio *::/autore_:: ::cck::1397::/cck::

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