Thursday, 4 July 2013

A colleague of mine who works at the Cairo

University has said that the unrest in Egypt (which has now resulted in a military coup) comes as no surprise to her. When President Mursi was voted in she told me that there were concerns about a corrupted electoral process.
"It was supposed to be "democratic" and it was hailed as such but, in reality, it was deeply flawed," she told me.
I heard similar things from other people working there at the time. The election process was carefully stage managed but the Islamists were determined to "win" and move closer to an Islamic state. Many of them knew it was not what a majority of Egyptians wanted but they believed they had the right to impose it. This morning I am left wondering what many Australians think of the turmoil in Egypt.
We are a meek lot. In any other country our own political shenanigans of recent weeks would have had people out on the streets. They would have been demanding an election.
Instead we largely accept we cannot vote for our Prime Minister. That is up to the party in power. That actually does not bother me particularly. The party in power has to have a public representative and it needs to be someone they can work with. The problem is the perception that we have control over that process when we do not. We accept that we must attend the ballot box. There is no legal requirement to vote but there is a widespread perception that we must and most people do.  I do have a problem with that. People need to know they have the right to vote or to abstain from voting. Voting is privilege and a right. It is also a duty and a responsibility. Despite all those things I do not believe it should be imposed by law. It ceases to be democratic once that happens.
We also accept that we have what is known as a "compulsory preferential voting system" - you must mark all the boxes on the ballot paper in order of preference in order for your first choice to count. That also bothers me. If there is only one candidate you wish to vote for then his or her votes should not be able to be (ab)used by another candidate simply because you are compelled to preference them.
We meekly accept that the Prime Minister calls the time for the election (within a certain time frame) and that the election we were to have had on September 14th could now be called any time between August and November. It is an "advantage of incumbency".
We meekly accept millions of dollars of taxpayer money being spent on political advertising in the guise of "information about government programmes". We meekly accept  broken promises and the failure to implement policies and believe we can get things to change at the next election.
These, and other things, mean that our apparently "democratic" system is actually far from democratic. But, nobody really complains. A few of us write letters to the editor or participate in on-line forums but most of us believe we can do very little. We believe we live in a democracy and that the democracy works.
I have a nasty sneaking suspicion that our complacency is causing our democracy to fail. We should have been out on the streets.


Helen Devries said...

It is something I am enjoying here in Costa Rica...people are not so apathetic as in Europe - they demonstrate, they get together, they take on authority when they perceive it to be abusing its powers.

catdownunder said...

Our lot are terribly apathetic Helen...I blame the compulsion to attend the ballot box and compulsory preferences.