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Democracy and choice


I wrote about similar issues in a different context in an earlier post.

Today, the second largest democracy in the world went through the motions to elect their next leader. Like the largest democracy in the world, this process wasn’t all “free and fair” either. Several creative methods continue to be used here as well to reduce turnout and influence outcomes. The only variation seems to be that this system has had over 200 years to bake its methods to have them be more sophisticated. As opposed to outright voter fraud in the more nascent democracy in South Asia.

Another disturbing trend is the lack of choices on this side of the world, and the fragmentation of choices on the other. Here this results in third party candidates being wiped out of any debates, national media coverage, or even conversations at the national level. There the “third party” candidates are all that count, and the larger parties court them aggressively to slap together a coalition of regional parties to meet the majority requirement to form a government.

As envisioned by the human civilization that thought-up democracy and refined it over the years, this process was supposed to be much different from what it is today. The price to pay to get in the game at these levels is so high that most mortals cannot meet that without raising money aggressively from vested interests to whom they remain indebted, thereby making it harder to be objective. Lobbying, favoritism and looting all that one can while in power seem to be natural extensions of the process, to recover the investments made in the candidate.

Answers are not easy to come by. Federal funding of all campaign expenses would be a start. Uniform rules for voter ID,  voter registration and polling booth requirements would help safeguard voting rights for all, that we have achieved after decades of struggle by millions of people who wanted the right to a representative democracy. Having more options on the ballot, and giving other options more airtime would benefit as well and force the popular two voices to face tougher questions and keep them honest rather than this dance of well rehearsed moves that we see every two years between the two Goliaths.

All said and done, today is the day that the common man wins. His vote sent a man back to the big white mansion and the other to one of his big mansions. What remains to be seen is if any of the hopes and aspirations of this common man will materialize over the next four years, or if we will again see a recurrence of politics as usual, as it happens in the other democracy across the world as well. How do we ensure that we have not only a representative democracy where we get to choose who represents us, but also have an accountable democracy where we hold them accountable for wasting our dollars or disrespecting our mandate?

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