December 13, 2007
What a Democracy really means, Mister..
The word democracy has been used so foolishly and cheaply.
Democracy describes a small number of related forms of government and also a political philosophy. The word comes from the ancient Greek for “rule by the people”. A common feature of democracy as currently understood and practiced is competitive elections. Competitive elections are usually seen to require freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and some degree of rule of law.
Democracy means rule by the people with competitive elections, not one whose process is laced with vote buying and phantom voting. With unfair practices in the electoral process, it is highly uncertain as to whether or not the person with the actual number of majority is properly selected and voted for.
When I visited the Australian Electoral Commission, I was deeply impressed by the mechanisms put into place to ensure free and fair elections. This includes constant updating of the electoral roll, and compulsory voting (you get fined if you don’t), extremely stringent measures to ensure all people vote, the ballot counters are all independent and cannot belong to any political party etc. In Malaysia, our electoral roll is pretty much outdated, we don’t have compulsory voting, and those who volunteer to count can be from a political party therefore not independent.
If a democracy is one that allows free speech, free press and the rule of law, can we safely say that this is what we have currently? (stop laughing, please)
When questioned, Minister of Information Zam said that we have a democracy because “we hold elections every five years”. What an inferior, uneducated statement, lacking substance in qualifying what kind of electoral process we really have.
A dictated democracy is no democracy.
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