Thursday, June 26, 2014

 Let us think and Act with an open mind to
Develop a Vibrant Democracy – Article 3

Introduction: I have identified thirty obstacles which cause a distorted and ineffective democracy and possible solutions for these. Because very few people have time / inclination to read long articles, these are presented in separate brief articles for pointed attention and easier assimilation. I hope this will lead to spreading of awareness and facilitating point by point debate on each of these for saving our sinking democracy.
(Please keep these articles within easy reach for referring back till the series is completed.)

Frequency of elections: The aim of elections is to have a Parliament, and state assemblies which can represent the people truly and effectively and help to manage governance with efficiency and accountability. With regard to the first aim of selecting true representatives of people the election system has failed miserably as clearly pointed out in Article 2. With regard to the second aim of an efficient system of governance also this system has failed because the mode and frequency of elections unnecessarily obstructs continuity of good governance as explained below.

When elections are carried out once in five years (or sometimes even earlier), number of efficient representatives who are fulfilling the above aims admirably are unnecessarily weeded out along with the inefficient and the tainted ones, unlike the management machinery which has continuity because it is not broken up completely and reassembled. This lack of continuity in top levels of governance leads to avoidable distortions and distractions in functioning of democratic and other institutions. On the other hand, if these are functioning efficiently, why should we not continue these beyond five years and save huge amounts of tax payers’ money spent on present system of elections? There is no guarantee that the new set of representatives will be better. They can even be worse as has happened quite often in the past, even making it difficult to form a cohesive government.

Obviously, election is a costly gamble using huge amounts of public money. Why should we not seriously think of a better method for giving voice to the people, not just once in five years as an ineffective ritual as at present, but more frequently and effectively?  

The present system of elections also diverts attention of government from govrernance to re-election and results in lack of efficiency and sincerity in governance, particularly  during pre-election periods. Further, the need for large amounts of money for participating in election leads to undesirable and illegal activities and generation of black money. All these harm the economy, besides distorting governance to satisfy fund providers. If elections are held after longer intervals, these two dismal situations can be mitigated, besides saving enormous public funds.

A fixed five year period may allow inefficiency and lack of transparency to continue for five years. When this is happening only, we should replace the undesirable democratic institutions which have been incurring expenditure on a set of representatives who have not justified the faith placed on them by people. Unfortunately, the possibility of the new set of representatives being equally bad or even worse cannot be ruled out. This will sound the death knell of democracy unless innovative corrective measures are taken immediately instead of waiting for five years and then again failing to get more cohesive and efficient institutions as shown by the history of elections.

To avoid distortions and distractions in functioning of Parliament, Assemblies and machinery of governance, it is better to have a flexible election system guided solely by the need for improvement in governance. This will reduce the enormous amounts spent on elections, part of which can be used for the two stage voting suggested in Article 2, to avoid grossly inadequate and perverted representation of people.

Another definite advantage of the flexible system of elections is that the machinery of governance, which has adjusted to a political power system, will not have to waste time and energy to readjust to another political power system once in five years or even less.

Neglecting these aspects is the third obstacle which results in a distorted and ineffective democracy.

These problems can be solved by having flexible durations for democratic institutions and leaders based on an efficiency driven approach for making desirable changes.  The present governing system has efficiency assessments for all officials of the management machinery except legislators who occupy the most crucial positions.  To remove this serious anomaly, at the end of each year, efficiency of all elected representatives in democratic institutions should be objectively ascertained and those not performing efficiently should be given a warning to improve. Those who do not show improvement after one year should be disqualified and their seats filled up by new election. Others should be allowed to continue till they happen to become inefficient in later yearly evaluations or cross a prefixed age limit or voluntarily retire. This will ensure continuity of governance and inject a sense of responsibility and accountability among the representatives which, sad to say, is not being ascertained now because there is no system of evaluation for this most important wing of governance!! An appropriate election system should avoid discarding efficient representatives along with inefficient and tainted ones, particularly because the former are rarer to find.

This new system of flexible elections based on yearly assessment will, besides ensuring continuity of all efficient democratic institutions, reduce expenditure on elections to a much smaller number of seats every year.  A small part of the enormous amount thus saved can be used to have two stage elections (refer Article 2) to ensure that the fewer persons elected as per the new system of elections represent majority of people.

Comments (especially those which point out errors or deficiencies, if any, in this article and thereby help to improve it) and other suggestions to overcome this obstacle are welcome. Please send these to I shall make use of all befitting suggestions to prepare the last two articles of this series – Articled 23 will spell out the basic principles which will guide formulation of the revised system of democracy and Article 24 will outline the revised system of democracy, for public debate to arrive at a consensus.

You can help to save democracy by making as many people as possible aware of these obstacles and possible solutions, through e-mail and social media like face book and twitter so that we can have healthy debates and arrive at some innovative ideas to save our sinking democracy.

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