Freitag, 16. Januar 2009

Guinea: Do Elections Matter for Development?

Paul Collier, Columnist with the Guardian Newspaper in London, asks whether the Putschists in Guinea are to blame for their coup d'etat. Coups "can take a society from bad to worse", he argues (Guardian, 15 January 2009). But the coup in Guinea could be different. "The challenge is not to suppress them but to harness them as a force for good". The junta on Thursday named a government "made up of military officers and technocrats three weeks after they seized power", according to the BBC. Junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara made it clear that soldiers hold the key finance, justice, and defence portfolios. "No representatives from political parties have been appointed but former banker Mahmoud Thiam has been put in charges of the mines sector", recorded the BBC.

A French official mentioned that the junta promised to hold elections this year, after an announcement before that elections would be possible in 2010. In December the junta had named Banker Kabine Komara as prime minister. Both the African Union (AU) and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS suspended the membership of Guinea after the coup.

Collier, who will publish his book "Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places" in March, calls for a pragmatic policy in regard to Guinea's military. He writes:
"When the president died after 24 years in office, the likely prospect was that Guinea would follow Togo where, after the demise of the president-for-life after 38 years in office, his son graciously assumed power in a token election. No wonder that junior army officers sought to pre-empt the evolution of Guinea from dictatorship to absolute monarchy by seizing the moment. The gut-reaction condemnation of the coup by the international community is sanctimonious condescension. The coup in Guinea also followed a pattern: the absence of term limits and prolonged periods of rule increase the chances of a coup.
Clean elections matter for integrity, but do they matter for development? Does electoral accountability actually discipline a government to run the economy better? With Lisa Chauvet I have been analysing 30 years of data on elections in the developing world. To capture how the economy was run we used two measures: a commercial rating for investors and a rating done by the World Bank. A reasonable objection to each is that while they reflect what international investors and World Bank staff want, there is no reason to expect that they represent what voters want. Indeed, some NGOs have argued for years that they are precisely the policies that citizens do not want."
(Klaus Boldt)

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