Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Election: Democratic or authoritative tool?

Recently, the Seven Party Alliance's (SPA) government decided to throw goodies in the form of one million rupees at the members of interim parliament. Thanks to the government, along with the parliamentarians of the mainstream political parties, the so-called leaders of the proletariat that do not own anything besides their ideology too, will be millioner soon.

Seeing the recent activities of the SPA government, it becomes evident that, promises are made to be broken and people are sought to be forgotten, at least till the next election cycle.

Giving away taxpayers' money by the government to contest election, at best can be regarded as a "political fraud." It is the biggest political fraud perpetrated on the public in recent times. If this is the only option at hand to motivate people's representatives to face their constituents, we are in serious trouble. We will be very soon behind Ethiopia in terms of development and behind Pakistan in terms of political freedom.

The government is trying to fool people by giving this decision a developmental color. It is being said that the money is given to carryout developmental activities. What kind of developmental activities can a Pahari parliamentarian from the tarai, or for that matter, Brahmin or Chhettri in Limbuwan or Tharuwan region, in the current situation where people are having hard time to save their lives, carry out with one million rupees in the period of three months?

When Prachanda with his entourage of former militia cannot visit Madi due to security threats, how many sitting parliamentarians can dare to visit their constituencies in the tarai or other regions of the country engulfed in ethnic conflict?

Forget about carrying out developmental activities for now. In the current situation, more than two-thirds of the sitting parliamentarians will not be able to move freely in their constituencies. First of all, it is necessary to create an environment whereby these parliamentarians, both handpicked and whose five-year-term has been expired long ago, can face electorate freely and fearlessly. For that to happen, it is necessary to address the issues raised by various ethnic groups. Elections held without the participation of minorities that make up of big chunk of the population, cannot be considered valid.

The SPA government has done things that would make thugs of illiberal regimes feel ashamed. Instead of ensuring that money does not undermine the free and fairness of elections, by deciding to give away money, the current government has already sown the seed of unfairness and unhealthy competition. It does not take Einstein's brain to understand, how and where -- these sitting parliamentarians, whose political future is up in the air, will use their prize money.

This decision will not only undermine the process of creation of a just society through a free, fair and credible election but create another set of political patrons. What Nepali citizens should understand is that feudalism is never defeated by political patrons. So, the time has come that we start looking beyond the ones that are warming the benches in the parliament.

Why is it important to ensure the fairness of elections? Although election is the bedrock of democracy, it can also be used as an oppressive tool to pacify opposition and dissent into conformity. It can be used both ways: (2) to empower people (2) to foment competition. It is necessary to check the influence of money on elections because it sways the results of elections and forces people to accept the modern form of "political occupation."

In order to defeat these prize winner parliamentarians, who will have a million to spend, other political parties or groups that are outside the SPA umbrella will have to field "moneybags" as candidates. In other words, to fight the money power of the incumbents, opposition parties, which the SPA doesn't think exists in Nepal, have to field rich candidates. What kind of precedence will this practice set? Where is the space for sincere citizens who want to selflessly serve the nation and the people that have been repeatedly betrayed in the name of progression, inclusion, and equality?

The monetization of elections will adversely affect the development of a democratic society. It will erode people's faith in democratic process and falsify the notion that representatives are freely and consciously elected. It will completely degenerate the genuine democratic process by which politicians of character and integrity are born.

This decision of throwing goodies to secure the victory of partymen in upcoming CA election is not only morally repugnant but also constitutionally flawed. The danger that comes with such irresponsible and unconstitutional act is that it limits the chances of participation of those who do not have money and power that comes with it, what otherwise should be a transparent, free, fair and just contest among political equals. It turns democracy into an exclusive club of patrons that are privileged.

The monetization of a major democratic institution such as election will corrupt the entire political process and pave the way for the rise of an authoritarian regime. For a country like Nepal which has experienced many years of turmoil and political hopelessness, the CA election is a remarkable step in the transition to democracy. It is, thus, extremely important to ensure that right people get elected. Till the cascading effects of money on elections are not negated, any promise of such a thing as clean and responsible government is an idea too far-fetched to be true.

At this critical juncture, it is important to understand that our misery lies in failure to create a rule-based society, where wrong-doers are penalized quickly and honesty is rewarded. If it is all about bringing back the same people, then why have the CA election? It is better to extend the term of the current bench warmers that are shamelessly accepting the bribe to face constituents.

This unconstitutional act of bribing politicians to participate in elections should be challenged in the Supreme Court. It is high time we rose against the politicians that are trying to turn elections into an authoritative tool. It will also provide us an opportunity to see whether the men in black in the Supreme Court that have freed corrupt politicians in the past have gotten any better.

1 comment:

B RAJ said...

In a country, where everything works under table and by force, election is just a way to legalise those who are able to grab power by any means....

B. Raj