The average shmoe, god bless his soul, labours under the notion that living in a democracy means you get to vote for stuff. Like a leader for example.
Of course in Iraq under Saddam, in the former Soviet Union, today in Iran and other despotic nations voting is commonplace even if it is as rigged as many claim the first Bush election was and many more offer evidence that the second Obama election also might have been. But this is highly secondary to the point.
What makes a democracy is the type and nature, and non-partisan nature of the institutions of state.
In other words, a democracy is a place where, just to pull an example out at random, the agency that collects tax revenue for the state should neither know nor care what your politics are, or what organizations you may belong to, but follows a very strict code as to how you are to pay your taxes based on criteria to be universally applied to all people within that country.
The military, as in the case of Turkey, must also be non-partisan and the government may not send in spies to rid the military of key people because those people may object to substantial changes in the nature of the system. Hugo Chavez also did this when he made his own gang of thugs, the Red Shirts, a branch of the military to spy on the regular members. The fact that people may or may not have voted in Chavez had little to do with Venezuela’s failure as a democracy. It was the destruction of the institutions of state as democratic institutions that, at least as I see it, cost it that title.
Some of these kinds of machinations by governments however are more gray zone. For example; in the UK, government is considering dismissing members of the Armed Forces if they are known to be members of, or take part in, EDL activities.
This would have nothing to do with their job performance whatsoever. Only that they support a group that, from many people’s perspective, do a better job at preserving and fighting for British values and law than the government itself.
But would this be forcing the military to become a partisan organization the way Turkey did when it jailed or dismissed all senior members of the forces who support Ataturk’s secular Turkey constitution? Or Hugo Chavez when he introduced his own spies to the military to roust out ideological opponents?
Anyone who knows the difference between Tina Fey and Sarah Palin should probably all think about and all decide this for ourselves. Democracy after all, requires a bit more work to sustain than a dictatorship, benign or not. Those who don’t know the difference may want to apply for permanent residency in North Korea.
Eeyore for Vlad.