Do You Think The Upcoming Elections Are DEMOCRATIC?
Is this free and fair election?
I wanted to vote this time for a new political alternative, like workers/progressive parties that are not part of the mainstream which we have tried and tested so many times.
First of all, I never saw any poster/banner/pamphlet apart from following parties in my constituency.
Even people’s party did not have its candidates publicized through any medium which explains party’s irrelevance in Punjab.
So, that raises the question of level playing field. Is that any level playing field possible when those parties not having or lacking funds are unable to disseminate their message? Which essentially means that to even enter political arena for contesting and attracting voters you need big money or deep pockets, hence an ordinary folk or party is barred from the very beginning.
With big money and wealthy individuals contesting and seeking votes across Pakistan the election exercise becomes inherently compromised and game of wealthy, for the wealthy and by the wealthy to gain more power. This is far from free and fair election, in that sense.
That said, lest we jump to a conclusion in condemning our fledgling democracy, we need to realize that there are no potent or reasonable alternatives to this system. However flawed this system is, we have had two consecutive civilian democratic transitions and already we have comparisons in governance and performance made across provinces where different parties ruled. This is a healthy sign and one of the beneficial fruits of democracy where competition encourages better performance among parties, ultimately leading to improved outcomes in terms of service delivery. Thus, the system slowly but surely moves to a stage where governance indicators become central to political discourse and democratic competition, accruing positive dividends to masses. The most prominent examples of above phenomenon are how PTI, PPP and PMLN are proudly showcasing their achievements in their respective provinces to seek votes.
But where there are positive sides to the democratic project, the failures and problems mentioned above also need to be recognized just to fine-tune and bring improvements to the system. And most importantly, the one change which is needed the most is more meaningful electoral reforms, which must include some way of allowing other political parties to emerge and enter political competition. This is a must for a functional democracy, because unless this happens, elite/commercial interests will dominate our politics to the detriment of masses and our parties will remain a hostage to them as at present. No sense of voice and empowerment can be felt or achieved by ordinary folks when they don’t see an alternative on ballot paper that stands for their rights. Another significant reform much needed is empowering election commission which is at present a parking place for retired judges. We need career oriented, young and qualified people to run an institution as important as Election Commission. This also needs to be supplemented through reforms and legislation to make it more autonomous so that it can cater well by responding to the needs of a complex democracy like ours. Otherwise, interference and allegations of inteference/intervention will render any electoral exercise irrelevant like we observe at present.
This again needs to be emphasised that only a democratic system can ensure our progress and transformation into a progressive nation that is not only more developed economically but also more responsive to its citizens, protecting their rights while allowing them the opportunity to grow and excel in life. The other paths for change, are far too risky, have higher probability of failures and end up with adverse consequences for citizens. This is where some nation states have lagged behind while others have moved ahead.
Coming back to my voting conundrum, I have finally downloaded list of national and provincial candidates from ECP website and am perusing through it as I write these lines. But the aforementioned political alternative in terms of a party genuinely representing people’s rights is missing in these lists.
But vote I must and vote I will, so as to expect and hope that democratic project and it’s continuity is the only way forward for this country and it’s people as the histories of other successful nations so clearly manifest. And more importantly, this is the only way democratic space and system can allow the emergence of a strong people’s alternative.
More power to people and vote!