Foreign Policy Blogs

No Compromise, No Accountability, No Republic

France 1800

Recently in my own community, one branch of the government has taken to openly violating some enshrined rights under the constitution using their own legislation that clearly violates the rights of the people. The acceptance in using the legal system to remove the rights of citizens that are governed under a constitution were surprisingly permitted. Allowing the legal system to take two years to decide on an issue of immediate concern has become a standard tactic in denying democratic rights in this democratic society. In order to quell any open protests by the community, both the government and group of affected individuals have accused each other of not being at the table to discuss the issue. One of them are likely not being truthful, but again there is no one who is holding them accountable for actively not compromising in this open disrespect of our constitutional rights. In response, the government said they will remove the law after it is applied. This useless symbol of a faux respect for democracy simply disrespects the spirit and laws of the constitution further as it shows that the government will create a law to deny citizens rights whenever it feels the need to ignore constitutionally protected laws.

The birth of the modern republic can be traced back to the fall of the French monarchy and the creation of over a hundred years of political infighting in the French Republic. The numerous smaller and larger revolutions and deaths due to political disagreements at the time had eventually formed a model of democracy that was able to avoid continuous violent change and maintain a strong contiguous state. Under a democratic and representative republic, governments were created that were able to form a system of compromise that displaced political violence in modern society. The French Republic had become the model for the United States as well as several other states including many in Latin America. Unfortunately, the lesson learned from a century of small conflicts in the streets of Paris seems to have been forgotten recently. No one who knows violence would choose it as a first best option, compromise is the only way to conduct political affairs in a republic, parliamentary democracy and all other systems based on constitutionally protected rights.

Over the last decade in Venezuela, leftist leader President Hugo Chavez was able to take popular support away from his right wing political opponents in general elections. In order to continue his social revolution in Venezuela, he held several referendums in order to maintain himself in power, changing the constitution so that the office of the President would have direct financial control over some government run industries as well as having the ability to expropriate private companies in Venezuela, including those run by multinational companies. In one of the most hotly contested referendums, Hugo Chavez was able to change the law so that he could run for re-election indefinitely, a right he wished to obtain in order to fulfill his goals of social revolution in the country. While Chavez is not Napoleon and has not declared himself as the Emperor of his country, opposition activists have claimed that he is making Venezuela less democratic by enshrining more legal powers to himself and taking actions to silence his critics in political opposition and the media. The claims by the opposition that Chavez is trying to make himself into a dictator may never be proven however, as Mr. Chavez has been increasingly ill after his re-election as President in 2012.

Venezuela has had a very divisive political environment that has lead to a polarization of its political system and eventual election of an overtly strong president. The office of the President in Venezuela has gained increased presidential powers in their constitution, beyond that of any other modern republic. The lack of compromise and claims of political violence on either side has created a situation of violence and a President that has so much power in their current system that his illness has paralyzed their active political system. Currently, Venezuela’s government is fighting a confused process of administrative law that will likely dominate Venezuela’s future for years to come. Even if Chavez survives his latest round of treatments, Venezuela would likely do better with Chavez resting than remaining as a President with increased powers and a weak legislature that is dependent solely on the President. Balance and compromise is needed in either case, as even if the opposition in Venezuela wins a new election, they still need to pay close attention to those who supported Chavez and felt they had little rights and justice during the pre-Chavez era. While Hugo Chavez has created a strong left in Latin America, it cannot last without him. Ironically his social revolution may not be able to continue past his own personal health, as he is the only one who was able to push through his laws past his strong opposition. In the end, the ones who will lose in this political conflict are the people themselves, a lesson learned long ago in the streets of Paris.

It is hard to imagine a similar situation to Venezuela occurring in the world’s largest republic, The United States. With the political wills of Americans locked in so deep that they cannot agree to simple matters of finances due to a severe lack of political compromise and the ability to only change a policy at the end of a tragedy, the lack of compromise has unnecessarily weakened the United States. The world’s largest republic cannot function as a republic if the constitution is not respected, if laws do not reflect the rights of everyone and if compromise is not recognized as a reality of a healthy political system. Before the fall of France in 1940, a divisive political environment dominated France to such a degree that many historians claimed that the apathy and malaise in French society at the time was a large contributing factor to the fall of France to the German army. While such a military threat is not a current reality for the United States, the lessons learned on how to maintain a balanced society through justice, law and political compromise was a hard lesson learned by France in the 19th and 20th century. All governments in democratic countries need to respect our political inheritance. Compromise is an essential part of democracy, without it there will be nothing left of a country beyond bloody debates and a weak nation.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration