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Bush On Democratic Transitions


In a recent speech, President George W. Bush said that the transition from a non-democratic form of government to a democratic one is never easy. The United States' own history, he said, illustrates the difficulties involved:

"The American Revolution was followed by years of chaos. In 1783, Congress was chased from Philadelphia by angry veterans demanding back pay -- and stayed on the run for six months. Our first effort at a governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed miserably -- and it took several years before we finally adopted our constitution and inaugurated our first president. . . .No nation in history has made the transition from tyranny to a free society without setbacks and false starts."

What separates those nations that succeed from those that falter, said President Bush, is their progress in establishing free institutions. While democracy takes different forms in different cultures, he said, successful democracies are built on certain common foundations:

"First, all successful democracies need freedom of speech, with a vibrant free press that informs the public, ensures transparency, and prevents authoritarian backsliding. Second, all successful democracies need freedom of assembly, so citizens can gather and organize in free associations to press for reform, and so that a peaceful, loyal opposition can provide citizens with real choices. Third, all successful democracies need a free economy to unleash the creativity of its citizens and create prosperity and opportunity and economic independence from the state."

In addition, Mr. Bush said that all democracies need an independent judiciary to guarantee the rule of law, and all democracies need to respect freedom of worship. "Respect for the beliefs of others is the only way to build a society where compassion and tolerance prevail," said President Bush. "These are the foundations that sustain human freedom," he said. "Societies that lay these foundations not only survive, but thrive."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.

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