Recent Impeachments Display Democratic Fervor
News out of South Korea in early March detailed the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, an establishment politician with close business ties. Park’s confidant Choi Soon-sil received official documents and support to extort money from corporations like Samsung, leading to bribery charges. After contesting the impeachment and losing, Park lacks the immunity that came with her office. The masses of peaceful protesters created a scene similar to that in Brazil at the end of 2016, where another political veteran faced corruption charges. These charges gained popular support, and more importantly show the growing rift and resentment between political elites and common people, a division evident in recent elections as well.
Brazil and South Korea have had their fair share of troubles with democracy. Military dictatorships and corruption have damaged their quest for democracy since the beginning of the twentieth century, but recent events show a dramatic shift in public expectations of government. Park is the first peacefully impeached South Korean president, but other leaders have been implicated in financial scandals. Protests across the nation call for the former president to face criminal charges like a normal citizen. Thousands flooded the streets of Brazil calling for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the former president. In December 2016, the people protested once more, this time against the weak anti-corruption bill passed through Congress. The popular will for a stronger law shows through, causing real political change and holding the elites liable for their actions.
Economic troubles and demands for transparency in politics has brought down leaders in two nations with rich histories of financial mismanagement by politicians. Other nations, including the United States and Argentina, could face similar discontent from the masses demanding accountability. This poses a particularly dangerous threat to administrations relying on faulty and unstable economic prosperity, like Russia. As conditions in the United States deteriorate, even seemingly untouchable leaders are threatened by the masses. Populist movements in the developed world have mostly resulted in conservative, xenophobic nationalists, but these examples show the growing populism in the developing world; the people rising, supported by courts and legislators, making leaders face their crimes.
As was chanted at the women’s march, “This is what democracy looks like”. Political elites, beware.