Democracy is not for cowards

by Julia Chladek, first year German student reading BA International Relations at KCL. Editor of the Europe section.

Two weeks ago, there was a general election in the United Kingdom. And as it is usually the case in functioning democracies, there was a majority that voted for a specific party, this specific party won and is now about to build the new government.
Simple as that.

What was neither usual nor simple (at least when considering Western European democracies) was what happened after the elections: The minority was not satisfied with the outcome of the elections and began to protest – on social media and through actual physical riots on the streets of London.
But wait, might you ask – is this not the underlying principle of democracy?
There is a majority (happy you, if this happens to be the party you voted for) and a minority (not so happy you, if you voted for them).
Simple as that? Apparently not for Britain in these days.

What is at stake here and why we can’t and mustn’t dismiss these events simply as some left-wing protest against a conservative government are the underlying principles of democracy. If a not even small part of the society is not willing to accept the outcome of a fair, general and democratic election just because it doesn’t suit their preferences, this undermines democracy as such. And this is indeed what they do – When Labour won in 2005 with only a 36% share of the vote, this was perfectly fine.
But now that the Tories won suddenly this is unjust, they call for a reform of the voting system (with which, just to mention that, the Tories would still form the government, but now most probably in coalition with UKIP), blame the structures, the state and call for a rethinking of democracy as such.
Isn’t it apparent that this is as illegitimate and born out of self-interest as it can be?

What I mean by ‘accepting’ the outcome is certainly not to be silent.
A functioning democracy needs a functioning opposition. It is an essential part of the everyday conduct of politics and everyone who denies that can’t honestly consider himself a democrat. As the unpredictability and the discussions prior to the elections have shown, there is an immense bunch of topics that needs to be sorted out in this country. Of course not everyone is happy with the way the Tories are planning to deal with this and of course everyone has the right and should use it to argue against this.
But the essential point here is that a functioning opposition accepts the results of the election, accepts its defeat, tries to do as much as it can in order to pursue its goals against the prevailing will of the government and in the best case successfully convinces a majority of the population to vote for them in the next elections through their arguments and their policy-making.

But this is in fact not what the Left is oing at the moment. What they are doing is rioting on the streets, vandalising memorials and behaving like a toddler who didn’t get his ice cream and is now screaming and throwing toys against his siblings.
The majority doesn’t have the same opinion as you? Outrageous!
Who considers it legitimate to vilify innocent citizens for expressing their political opinion and making use of their right to vote, just because this vote wasn’t in favour of the party he preferred, should sincerely consider if he is living in the right country.
To me, this understanding of democracy rather corresponds to a state such as China or North Korea than to a Western democracy.
If this is what you want, poor you.

If not, and I sincerely hope so, could you please reconsider your strategies of protesting and finally start to work for a legitimate opposition?
Democracy is not for cowards. Everyone can run on the street, blame the system and start a riot. But what counts and in the end makes a difference are arguments, convincing policies and successful political work.
I’m not ashamed to say that if I had the right to vote in this country, I would not have voted Labour.
You want to convince me of the contrary? Please go ahead.
But I can assure you that this is not how that is going to work.


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