Voters alone can sustain Democracy

Issue 376, September 1, 2017

As Politicians appeal to the people of this country to give their ‘Party Vote,’ it means two distinct things- that they want you to vote for their Party if not for their candidate – and more importantly, they want you to vote.

American novelist Louis L’ Amour was right when he said, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”

New Zealand under threat

For more than 100 years, New Zealand politics was robust, with people exercising great vigilance over people who govern them and those who oversee such governance. People were supreme and hence political philosophies that were central to political parties did not matter. Everyone had to comply with minimum standards of honesty, integrity and transparency.

Developments of the past few years would seem to cast a doubt on New Zealand and its ability to sustain such democratic ideals. True, we are still high on the ‘Clean List’ of countries perceived as the ‘least corrupt.’ However, that is just perception.

It is true that democracies are on average richer than non-democracies, are less likely to go to war and have a better record of fighting corruption.

More fundamentally, democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures. That so many people in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to its enduring appeal.

Tough times ahead

As an Economist Essay mentioned, democracy is going through a difficult time.

“Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes. Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world.”

In the second half of the 20th century, democracies had taken root in the most difficult circumstances possible – in Germany, which had been traumatised by Nazism, in India, which had the world’s largest population of poor people, and, in the 1990s, in South Africa, which had been disfigured by apartheid.

People elect representatives who pull the levers of national power for a fixed period. But this arrangement is now under assault from both above and below.

The survival of a democracy depends not on its leadership, but on its people and the way in which those people demonstrate their power in choosing the people and their Party to govern them.

Voting therefore is a must; it is the only weapon that we have to strike at erring politicians.

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