OnPointe - Democracy’s time has not come

ELECTIONS are taking place in different parts of the country and around the world. Sarawakians voted last week while the Philippines went to the polls this week after a vigorous and controversial campaign period.

Much has been written about the populist mayor who has claimed victory in the presidential election. Judging from his comments about rape and even admitting to multiple murders, one must wonder how and why he has garnered the most votes and why Filipinos also voted Ferdinand Marcos’ son for the role of vice-president.

Perhaps it is not a case of “the apple does not fall far from the tree” and it would be unfair to judge him by his parents sins. But one has to wonder what is it with political family dynasties and their children carrying on the family legacy. Malaysia as we know is not spared from this metastasis phenomenon.

But why has the Philippines, which is seen as Asean’s oldest democracy, picked such characters as their new leaders? Was it out of fear as police reported that 10 people were killed by gunmen who attacked polling stations, ambushed vehicles and stole vote-counting machines? Or was it because the people want a “seen to be” powerful leader?

While Sarawak did not report such violence, a true democracy would have allowed opposition party members to enter the state freely to campaign before the May 7 election.
Something so basic yet repeatedly denied.

What becomes evident though when trying to make sense of these political episodes is that there’s a lack of political will, a lack in new leadership and a lack in electoral integrity.

Lack of will

Not only is there a lack of political will by the politicians themselves, there is a lack of will from the people. It might sound harsh to say it, after all an election was held and the people voted. But how fair and clean were these elections? How much money was suddenly poured into these countries or states? Was it an equal playing field? Was the media given access and allowed to be fair and neutral in their reporting?

Until the people who are voting have the will, not the strength but the will to do more, only then can change happen. So often though people are worn down, made scared or just too comfortable to rock the boat.

While it might be easy to chastise those who sold their votes, we do not know how dire their situation would have been to do so. Even if the amount was equivalent to fifty ringgit, that money might mean a week of groceries for a family of seven. Not at all an easy position to be in to reject the money. Having the will is far more complicated and perhaps with the right support, it might be easier.

Lack of new leadership

If anything the American presidential race is proof that America did not plan well or raise new leaders of calibre. Even on our shores, what we see are “same old same old”. And when that fades, their mini-me’s take over groomed to follow by example or tow the party line.

Not only do we see the same faces but the same arguments, the same bad logic, the same dividing strategy, the same boogeymen, the same backwardness.

No matter how evolved or educated society becomes, the politics and politicians continue to regress.

What we see are the usual suspects. The same people who have always been involved in politics continue being involved in politics.

But in all honestly, who has the stomach or stamina when even such a basic right of travelling within your own country is denied. If points were given for strategy and tactics it would be a clear win but if points are given for playing a good and fair game what would the tally be?

Lack of Electoral Integrity

Democracy goes beyond elections but if the very basic premise of elections is lost, does that affect or undermine the legitimacy of those elected?

Thanks to civil society movements and greater access to legal education, societies are more aware of issues of vote rigging, inaccurate voter registration, ballot miscounts, gerrymandering and delineation of seats among other concerns.

We can say that long-standing democracies face similar challenges but why not compare it with the true ideals of democracies and not other countries?

Of course no one willingly gives away power and building a solid electoral system means levelling the playing field. The only way is through vigilance of the people, which is not an easy feat.
Victor Hugo once remarked: “You may resist the invasion of an army, but you cannot stop an idea whose time has come”.

As disheartening as it is to admit, perhaps what can be concluded is that for this part of the world, it is not democracy’s time yet.

And when it is democracy’s time, even an invasion of armies can be resisted.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com