As part of the festivities related to the International Day of Democracy in The Hague (15 September), over 500 guests were allowed to take part in the Night of Dictatorship on 14 September, but only after a strict dictatorial safety check. It was an evening filled with debates, lectures, movies, theatre and personal stories about life in a dictatorial regime. EPD guests from Zimbabwe shared their experiences with electoral violence and electoral fraud. EPD guests from Egypt inspired the guests in sessions on internet activism and the Arab Spring. Visitors could also take a Master Class on how to defend a dictator. On the other hand, the Chairman of the EPD Board defended fragile democratic systems over ‘benevolent dictatorships’. The oppression and censorship, common to a dictatorship, were clearly noticeable at the night of dictatorship. Fake ‘agents of the Intelligence Service’ disrupted lectures by harshly removing ‘dissidents’. Alcohol was only available with the correct code word and even then, hidden in a paper bag. The evening ended with an illegal after-party, for which clandestine invitations were secretly distributed. Read more about The Night of Dictatorship
On 15 September, the international Day of Democracy started festively by renaming the Hofplaats in The Hague into ‘Democracy Square’ for one day and with a symbolic cleaning of the Constitution Monument at Democracy Square (Democratieplein in Dutch) by Speaker of the Dutch Parliament Gerdi Verbeet together with kids from elementary schools.During the day, Democracy Square served as a podium for all kinds of lectures and activities: As such, Syrian activists started their journey with the Democracy-caravan ‘from The Hague to Damascus’ to keep the focus on the protests in Syria and the brutal repression by the Syrian Government. In honour of the imprisoned and molested Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat, a workshop on ‘political cartoon drawing’ was organised. Experts from Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and Poland spoke on the transition process to democracy in their countries. Peaceful protesters for democracy on squares around the world were honoured by a video compilation.
EPD also organised an expert meeting on democratic transitions in Zimbabwe in cooperation with Zimbabwe Watch. The delegation of EPD guests from Zimbabwe was composed of Mr Gift Marunda, National Coordinator of the Select Committee of Parliament for the New Constitution (COPAC); Mr Dominico Chidakuza, Chief Law Officer for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC); and Ms Getrude Mhlanga, Programme Officer of the Zimbabwe-Europe Partnership for Democracy (ZEPAD). The Day of Democracy 2011 ended with a networking event organised by EPD, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy and Network Democracies. It brought together over 40 experts from different backgrounds to brainstorm about the opportunities and challenges of digitisation for democracy support. The debate focused on the question of how the 2.0 revolution can lead to structural and increased participation of citizens in the governance of their countries. Amongst the participants were internet entrepreneurs, democracy activists, democracy supporters and politicians from The Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Georgia and Ghana.