The Nation Is Incorrect About How Democracy Works

Jan 12th, 2010 | By | Category: The Nation

Courts and JusticeThe Nation’s editorial, “A democratic attitude,” says that “the practice almost unexceptionally followed by successful democracies in the world” is for everyone accused of corruption to resign and present themselves to a court. This is not true.

  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy was accused of taking kickbacks from arms dealers when he was a government minister under President Chirac. Sarkozy was never forced to step down from political office, and the accuser – former PM de Villepin – is being sued in what is known as “the Clearstream case.” In fact, former French President Chirac’s lawyer has argued that his client enjoyes immunity for acts carried out while president. Actually, there are several politicians including Ministers and Presidents who are accused in this case, and the trend is not for them to step down, but for the judicial process to proceed normally with a presumption of innocence.
  • American President Bill Clinton was accused of corruption while he was the president in what is known as the “Whitewater controversy.” During this case the president and his wife who is now the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were investigated by the US government while they were in power. They never resigned. After many years, the investigation did not charge them with any illegal acts.
  • British PM Tony Blair was accused of corruption while he was in office and was even questioned by police. The case involved accusations that his political party was given secret loans and that donors were nominated for honours. Tony Blair did not step down.
  • Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is actually on trial for corruption while he remains in office. In fact, the Italian government is considering a proposal to suspend the trials in preparation for elections.

This is not an excuse for corruption, or to say that corruption should be tolerated. And yes there are many political leaders who, when corruption has been proven, either resign or are removed from office. But The Nation’s suggestion that it is typical practice in successful democracies for politicians accused of corruption to resign is false. Actually, the opposite is true. In successful democracies, politicians have the opportunity to defend their name before they are forced to resign. Otherwise, it is not democracy but a coup.

Whether or not any specific Pakistani or foreign politician should resign or appear before court is not for us to say. But if The Nation wants that to happen, they should at least be honest and not misrepresent how successful democracies work.

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