Towards effective and fruitful elections [Archives:2006/946/Opinion]

May 15 2006

By: Mohammed Al-Qadhi
I know that democracy is never limited to voting. It rather involves other practices for democracy, as John Kennedy said, is never a final achievement.

However, election is a very important process in any democratization and transformation drive. It enables the people to be the driving force of change because of their power to take the decision and choose their rulers. In other words, it is elections that determines and demonstrates the participation of the people in the overall governance process.

This can take place if the election is fair and free where the people decide and choose without any influence or intimidation. But, we can not talk about democracy where elections are carried out fraudulently. To ensure a fair play, the voter registration process must be clean and transparent. The voter register must be free from repeated and underage voters. The Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) announced last week that there were 126,000 underage voters and another 64,000 duplicated voters. This is what the SCER has disclosed and the underground irregularities the voter register is pregnant might be more than that.

Of course, such kind of register in addition to many other sorts of influence exercised on voters will never entail the will of the people. Voters here turn to be just a means for false testimonies decorating a false and phantom democracy. That is, elections become fruitless in such circumstances of frauds and irregularities. They produce frustration whereby the people feel democracy is just a big lie and a mere hypocrisy meant to appease the foreign countries rather than a means for influencing change at home. Furthermore, they become confident that their votes make no difference and thus do not go to the polling booths.

Let us have a look at the current parliament structure; it is composed most of influential tribal figures and businessmen. Some of these MPs are hardly literate and enjoy absolute authority on their citizens in their constituencies. Some even still have private prisons. Most of these people, of course, never voice the interests of their people, but their own. This or that influential guy can run for parliament several times and win. When he retires or dies, he is replaced by his son in some cases. Most of these parliamentarians are weak and even influenced by the government. By the end of the day, we tend to have a toothless parliament which is unable to hold the government accountable, its main business.

Another detriment to improve the effectiveness of elections is the single-member electoral system which, according to International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance report published last year,” has helped to kill pluralism before it has had a chance to develop, limiting the chances of opposition parties to gain the number of parliamentary seats that would boost their competitiveness”. This means that we have to consider the reform the electoral law, addressing the loopholes so as to strengthen party pluralism which is tremendously backsliding and is on its last leg.

I know we are still a fledgling democracy where we should not expect things to be perfect overnight. Yes, this is true. But, if we are serious about establishing a real democracy, its grounds should be solid and transparent. Elections can not be effective and encouraging broad public participation unless they are fair and free. Otherwise, they become a waste of time and efforts and above all a false testimony to tyrannical and oppressive regimes, resulting in further frustration and extremism.