In a statement delivered on the 14 September 2015 at the Opening Panel of the Forum 2000 Conference on “Democracy and Education” in Prague, Professor Hans Köchler, President of the International Progress Organization (I.P.O.), said that the Western world’s consensus on “liberal democracy” is based on an imprecise notion of the democratic process.
He explained the conceptual confusion between representation of the popular will (as in parliamentary systems) and direct participation of the people in the legislative process (by way of referendum). While the latter is the original form of democracy (rule by the people), the former – rule on behalf of the people – has often become a tool of powerful interest groups who have succeeded in influencing or dominating political parties.
Hans Köchler recalled the legacy of the late Václav Havel, philosopher and statesman, founder of Forum 2000, who, during the Velvet Revolution of 1989, emphasized the sovereign role of the citizen and the importance of direct democracy. For the sake of precision, the President of the I.P.O. suggested that, in debates about the democratic paradigm, one should make a clear distinction between direct and indirect (representative) forms of decision-making; lobby-rule should not uncritically be accepted as a kind of democratic “best practice.”
Answering to a panel report on the human rights situation in Egypt, Professor Köchler highlighted the double standards of most Western governments who propagate “liberal democracy” as global paradigm on the one hand and, on the other, keep silent about a military coup and the abrogation of democratic procedures by use of armed force as in the case of Egypt.
Among the speakers of the panel were Nobel Peace Laureate F. W. de Klerk, former President of South Africa, and Petr Pithart, former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. The session was chaired by Jacques Rupnik, Director of Research at Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI) (Paris), and former Advisor to President Václav Havel. •
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