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US president Donald Trump
US president Donald Trump

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities"-Voltaire

As the world's population, including a large number of Dominicans, remain transfixed by US president Donald Trump's non-violent de facto coup d'état of the United States presidency and government, we reflect on our less dramatic but nonetheless somewhat consequential reality-defying occurrences in Dominica over the past few years.

This includes the government's totally outrageous arresting and questioning and bringing before the court of top opposition politicians, including a former prime minister, over an alleged coup, or so-called incitement, that the government wants Dominicans to believe actually happened. It is what it is.

But then again who would have believed that in this bastion of democracy, the United States of America, we would be treated, daily, with such brazen lies and conspiracy theories that Trump and the Republican Party are promulgating in an effort to overturn the result of an election and change a landslide defeat into a win and second term for Trump.

To paraphrase Voltaire, the French philosopher, if politicians, at home and abroad, can influence supporters to believe such blatant lies then it does not take much to convince them to commit atrocities.

It is what it is.

The most surprising element in the on-going Trump saga is the fact that more than 70 million Americans actually believe Trump's lies and are acting on his foolish madness- that he has been cheated of an election victory by people loyal to the deceased Hugo Chavez and billionaire George Sores, Argentina, China, ANTIFA, Maduro and "big media, big money, and big tech".

"Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the president has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election," Republican senator Mitt Romney was quoted in the New York Times on Friday. "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president."

As we note Trump's madness-induced attempted coup we recognise that other attempts by politicians at remaining in power by any means possible appears to be the new norm in Africa and in other parts of the world.

For instance, the New York Times reported recently that president of the West African nation of Guinea was running for a third term on Oct. 18, even though Guinea requires its presidents to step down after two. But because of a constitutional change he initiated, his first two terms don't count.

According to the Times, the president in neighboring Ivory Coast has made his first two terms disappear with a constitutional amendment, too. So he also ran for a third-but-actually-first term, on Oct. 31.

And after 34 years in power, Uganda's 76-year-old president plans to run for re-election in February. The age limit for presidents in Uganda was 75, but then he changed the constitution, and sought to prove his fitness to stay in office with a demonstration of his red-carpet workout routine in the State House-to the howls of many Ugandans.

And in at least 10 of Africa's 54 countries where elections are to be held over the next five months, all of the incumbents but one wants to stay in office.

"While most African presidents since 1990 have stepped down after their terms were up, many are now bending the rules to ensure they stay in power," the New York Times reports. "Some have manipulated supreme courts and electoral commissions; others have changed constitutions, prosecuted opposition candidates or prevented them from running by imposing onerous qualifying criteria."

Sounds familiar?

It is what it is.

The emergence of Donald Trump more than four years ago and his constant attack on democratic norms such as the press, has spawned many books and articles on the future of democracy around the world.

As we proposed in an earlier editorial, you should read "How Democracies Die" by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt one of the best books on the subject.

The signs of dying democracies, that Levitsky and Ziblatt outline in the book, are very apparent in Dominica of the past two decades for those who have eyes to see and who have ears to hear, and who have not buried their heads in the mud of partisan politics where the supreme leader is as omnipotent as the Pope, and who have not sold their brains for jobs, positions, relief materials, scholarships and ambassadorships.

It is what it is.

For example, there's an ongoing case of incitement that leader of the opposition Lennox Linton is facing before the courts for a public speech that he gave at a public meeting in February 2017 that the government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has determined was an attempted coup. Let's face it: There was no attempted coup. It was, at most, a blistering critique of the government's handling of the Citizenship by Investment programme by the legitimate political opposition in response to an exposé on American television, CBS's 60 Minutes.

It is what it is.

By the way, Levitsky and Ziblatt concludes that democracies these days die with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, the parliament and the integrity in public office commission, and other commissions, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms.

The authors add: "Violent seizures of power are rare. But there's another way to break a democracy: not at the hands of generals, but of elected leaders who subvert the very process that brought them to power.

"In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez was freely elected president, but he used his soaring popularity (and the country's vast oil wealth) to tilt the playing field against opponents, packing the courts, blacklisting critics, bullying independent media, and eventually eliminating presidential term limits so that he could remain in power indefinitely.

"In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán used his party's parliamentary majority to pack the judiciary with loyalists and rewrite the constitutional and electoral rules to weaken opponents.

"Elected leaders have similarly subverted democratic institutions in Ecuador, Georgia, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine, and elsewhere. And now this is happening before our very eyes in the mighty United States of America. But do you know of a Caribbean country where the subversion of democratic institutions is happening right now? Open your eyes. It is what it is.


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