Democracy in Peril

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The Flint River water, however, was not treated with corrosion control chemicals and ate through the old pipes at the heart of that once-mighty industrial city.


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The resulting corrosion put lead into the water of Flint—lead, perhaps the best understood neurotoxin. Exposing young brains to lead is to sentence those souls to cognitive decline.

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It changes lives for the worse. Flint became a full-fledged public health crisis. In Flint, people new something was wrong. Despite reassurances from state and local officials, the water tasted odd. It looked worse. It took a remarkable coalition, including a crusading pediatrician, a water scientist, and local activists to reverse what was going very wrong in Flint.

Michael Sandel: Is Democracy in Peril? Politics in the Age of Trump

The alarming truth is that there are efforts to diminish the power of democracy happening all over the United States. We see evidence that people want to resurrect poll taxes , and literacy tests. In some cases, the efforts to disenfranchise voters takes the form of how many polling machines you put in a given voting precinct. Every case of gerrymandering you hear about is an effort to concentrate blocs of voters into as few Congressional districts as possible, often by race.

Cases in North Carolina , Pennsylvania , Maryland , Ohio , and Michigan have either been settled in the courts, or will be, but all raise profound and troubling questions about the commitment of many American political leaders to the very meaning of democracy. We have further provided a confirmation signed by MPs in favour of this resolution. It did not matter that such sleight of hand does not work in a democratic polity. They further moved that a division should be held for the same day itself… A majority of the honourable Members of Parliament voted in favour of the No-Confidence Motion and accordingly the honourable Speaker announced to the House that the No-Confidence Motion was passed with a majority.

His party leaders would meet to discuss the next steps, he told mediapersons.

Democracy in Peril | Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

The court will take up the case in December. The only exception provided by the Constitution to the above prohibition is where Parliament requests the President to dissolve Parliament by a resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of members including those not present voting in its favour. However, the court, considering this a rare case of extreme importance, decided to take it up the next day. Although the Attorney General A. The A. By evening the same day, Novermber 13, the court had reached an interim determination.

It was this determination that forced Wickremesinghe to act fast, seize the first-mover advantage and convene Parliament. Fully aware that Rajapaksa would not give up the seat of Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe staged a strategic retreat and sat in the opposition benches.


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  • The drama, which began on October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Wickremesinghe, continues to be a cause for concern for millions of ordinary citizens interested in trying to make ends meet, even as the economy hurtles down the path of disaster, fuelled by scams, rank economic mismanagement, a precarious balance of payments position, and a lack of oversight. The Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine systematically took control of many other institutions in the country.

    The usurpers seemed confident of taking government organisations without facing resistance.

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    A Rajapaksa loyalist even boasted that Parliament would not be dissolved. When things were not turning out the way the Rajapaksas wanted, the family responded by usurping more powers. On November 9, the police department, which functioned under a separate Ministry, was brought under the purview of the Defence Ministry, manned by Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The same day, the department of printing was brought under the Defence Ministry via a presidential notification.

    Inducements were offered to all those willing to switch sides. So, the question arises as to how the mighty Rajapaksa, with the entire resources of the state at his disposal and even President Sirisena on his side, failed to secure a simple majority in Parliament. Three factors appear to have worked in favour of those fighting for the restoration of democracy in Sri Lanka.

    First, despite the fact that Mahinda Rajapaksa is the most popular politician in Sri Lanka, the people do not want his entire family to occupy all positions of state power, as they had witnessed the brute power of the family during the period. Second, the smaller political parties—the Tamil political parties and the JVP, a Sinhala-Left political party—which constantly fight for the rights of their people, took the lead and showed the way.

    Third, Sri Lanka has not had a joint opposition that worked together in the past several decades. This time around, it was not so. They seemed as much invested in the cause of democracy and the country as a whole as any other ordinary citizen. This dissolution may have a strangely unifying effect.

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    After some debate over the stand that it should take, the TNA declared that it would not support or recognise the government headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa. It called upon the President to make amends and, finally, when all doors in the political and executive spheres were closed, it approached the court.

    Vigneswaran, who broke ranks with the alliance to float his own party. The TPA further made it clear that it would not support any impeachment move against the President. The surprise addition to this list was the JVP. It is rare that the TNA and the JVP, which is ultra-nationalist but claims to have a communist outlook, are on the same side.

    The JVP stood firm in its fight—because the party has no love lost between the party and the Rajapaksas—and was a part of the struggle of the joint opposition.

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    Much depends on how much President Sirisena will be able to change course for this drama to end and a new one to begin. He is firm that he will not accept Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and has already made it clear that the crisis would have been averted if any other senior leader from the UNP had come forward to take on the mantle of Prime Minister. His letter to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya reveals his mind. Sirisena stated in the letter that the Speaker was in violation of parliamentary procedures and relevant standing orders on November 14, when the no-confidence vote was taken, and that he was the authority who could appoint a Prime Minister.

    He also claimed that a Prime Minister did not require the support of the majority in Parliament. The fact that the President wrote a letter appears to be a climbdown—he recognised the existence of the Speaker and was willing to engage with him. But it is clear that Sirisena will not back down from his demand to replace the Prime Minister.

    A meeting between the President and leaders of opposition parties took place on November 15 evening. There are various versions as to what happened during the meeting, but politicians on both sides claimed that some headway was made towards a resolution of the crisis minus the Rajapaksas.

    The dawn of November 15 hardened attitudes on both sides—the Rajapaksas, who lost the vote in Parliament, and the UNP members, who finally got the opportunity to prove to the world that they still had the numbers. The UNP wanted to push further, while the Rajapaksas could not afford another botched show in Parliament. Although a meeting of the UNP-led bloc and the President was slated for November 15 morning, the UNP members and all the other allies decided not to meet him.

    With the Speaker declaring that the session called for the day would go ahead as planned, the stage was set for a confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties, although it was not clear which was the ruling party and which was in the opposition.