Monday, March 15, 2004

Terrorizing Democracy

I've posted a longer piece about the Spanish elections at Eursoc.com, but I'd like to make one point here that I feel is important about the results of yesterday's vote in Spain. Most commentators are arguing that the vote was a rebuke to the governing Popular Party for its support of the US during last year's invasion of Iraq. This isn't exactly true because had Thursday's bombings not occurred, the Popular Party would have won the election despite having supported the United States last year.

It was the bombings that changed all that. The question then is, what swung voters to the Socialists? Here again, things aren't entirely clear. Aznar's handling of the bombing, especially his control of information regarding who was responsible, didn't impress many Spaniards. Large numbers felt that the government was hiding something from the population - a risky venture in the wake of such an emotion-stirring event.

On the other hand, it may be that increasing numbers of voters felt that the bombings would not have occurred had Spain refused to support the US. This then is the crux of the issue. The media has been saying that the reason for the ousting of the Popular Party was its support of an Iraq invasion, simply. But as I've said, this is not true. This media-driven view fails to place the emphasis where it belongs - on the terrorist bombings. The bombings themselves changed the results of the election, not Iraq. And if voters marked their ballots, not in anger over Aznar's handling of the incident, but with the view that the bombings happened as punishment for supporting the United States, then it is clear that terrorism has succeeded in manipulating, in the most clear way possible, a democratic election. That's the real concern. Media havering about Iraq is a whitewash. Democracy in Europe is now directly under attack.

And this brings me to a final point. American democracy seems to have weathered the terrorist storm, but it is Europe, with its younger democracies and its growing militant Islamic population, that is now threatened. Isn't it the case that, despite the media's continuing inability to name the real threat, or perhaps precisely because of that inability, the greatest threat posed by terrorism is not directed to the US but to teetering and insular Europe, fiddling while Rome burns?

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