Lesson from Election 2005
No body argues that the 2005 election was anti-climax for the voters, the opposition parties as well as the government. In fact, it had been a traumatic experience for all stakeholders. At subconscious level, election to the ruling party may mean fear, getting cornered, loss of power, privilege and even more compromising one’s own security and survival. For the public, it could mean engaging in a pointless exercise where their vote would be disregarded after all the trouble of queuing to cast their votes. It may have left a nagging feeling like, “If you want to stay out of trouble do as you are told to do so”. For the opposition political parties, it may mean inviting trouble and even more paying unnecessary scarifies and suffering in pointless exercise.
In short, our first multi-party competitive election has left a political apathy and pessimism than inspiring all stakeholders to be part of this worthy learning exercise. It was a bad start and it is a very regrettable experience to all, but do we have any other choices? I do not think so.
The Choice: We either move forward to grow or retreat back into safety
Successful individuals reiterate success depends on making the right decision. And making the right decision depends on experience. (I know that, been there and done that…). And unfortunately experience comes often from making bad decisions and failures. Hence, as much as it is emotionally traumatising, making bad decisions is part of the learning curve and a step forward to find the right solution.
The difference between those who succeed and those who remain a failure is in their ability to learn from their bad experience to bounce back with new solution. Quitters will neither progress nor make the best out of their experiences.
Parable of Saint Yared and the little worm that failed 6 times before climbing a tree to eat the fruit is a good inspirational example. Tomas Edison had also failed more than 10,000 times before inventing the light bulb but he didn’t see it as failure. Asked how it feels to fail 10,000 times his reply was “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” So, the lesson should be to count the 2005 election as one way that didn’t work. Now the mind should focus on the best way to improve the process or find a better way of setting an ethical politics and civilised way of conflict resolution.
That is why we need to ask ourselves to learn and move forward than retreat into safety. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Can we have a peaceful and stable country without the people having a say? The answer is No! Is there any better way where the people can have a say or remove individuals who do not represent their best interest than through a ballet box? The answer is NO. Can we assure safety for outgoing leaders or limit the power of incoming power without the public having a say at the ballot box?. The answer is none at all. Is there any other way a ruling party would get a feedback on its performance without going to ballot box? Can we empower the public to protect their hard earned rights and dignity without giving them a chance to have a say how to be governed? The answers are No.
Hence, there is no other option than making election and democracy work in our country. Of course, democracy itself has fallbacks. That is why the pace, the speed of change and the means need to be debated but it appears to me we are on a one way street and there is no turning back unless we prefer to have a head on collision with incoming traffic.
That is why the ruling party and Electoral Board need to work hard to convince the public that this election is not to end all elections. If the coming election is made to be a pointless exercise in the eyes of the public, then we are laying a ground for unpredictable and uncontrolled change. As a 16th century French author put is “The only thing constant in life is change”. Change is unstoppable and the Marxists call it “dialectics”. But change is manageable and that is why election is so important.
A pessimist view “that election does not work in the third world” is not only demeaning to the people in the third world but also a coded word for violence. It is a responsibility of all stakeholders to make election work.
Absence of organised opposition does not also equate to absence of opposition. At this juncture all stakeholders must make an effort to learn from past mistakes to find a better way of having elections than become prisoners of fear.