Democracy & Voting
Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.
The defining element of a Democracy is the fact that the people elect their leaders through a process of voting. Every citizen in a country that is recognised as an adult is eligible to vote.
This Democratic process is used in conflict resolution and deciding on laws. The concept of elections and voting is the foundation that all Democracies stand on.
This foundation of voting moves the power and control of a country from political leaders in government to the citizens. Changing the course of human history and is one of the driving forces behind the improvement of human rights and peoples lives.
Layers Of Elections
When the people of a Democratic country vote for a leader or party to lead the country. We are giving these people the power to vote on our behalf in government.
In this way, the power of a vote is amplified as all the elected leaders and political parties debate and vote on decisions and laws that will then direct the country's future.
If one political party gets 1 Million votes out of ten, they will have 10% of the voting power in government, because 10% of the people have passed the power of their vote to them to act on their behalf. In this way, the politician you voted for votes in parliament is the same as you voting in parliament.
Free And Fair Elections
At the end of each election of each country, you will hear about international observers stating if an election was free and fair or if there were irregularities.
Just because a country declares itself a Democracy does not make it one. If there is intimidation or vote rigging or the process of elections is only ceremonial as the ruling party is always the same. Then such a country is said not to be free and is not a true Democracy.
If a country does not have free and fair elections it is not a Democracy. Instead, it is a dictatorship or authoritarian state characterized by strong central power and limited freedoms for its citizens.
Mature And Immature Democracies
South Africa has a voting system that generally is considered to be free and fair. In simple terms, your vote counts and matters.
Unfortunately, just because we have elections does not mean our Democracy is a good one. It often takes time for a new Democracy to mature, where the will of the people is respected and voting is about real issues and problems affecting the people.
When one party in a Democracy is repeatedly voted into power not based on their performance but based on loyalty or for historic reasons, then that country is an immature Democracy.
In South Africa this has been steadily improving, where ten years ago you knew who somebody would vote for based on their race and where they lived. Today you can't say this, so we are progressing to a mature Democracy, but until the ANC loses power and somebody else gets a chance to lead we can't call ourselves a mature Democracy.
South Africa is an immature Democracy.
Voting Is Accountability
The only way the entire system is kept in check and corruption is prevented or at least kept to a minim is through voter lead accountability.
Politicians and political parties are very similar to raising small children. If there are no boundaries, and they are never punished when they do something wrong, you get a brat of a child that has no respect for anyone and does whatever they like.
The only way to hold governments and political parties accountable are by voting them out of power when they do not perform and do things that are not in the interest of the people.
Centralization Of Power Corrupts
When the people of a country do not hold their leaders accountable, over time this completely undermines a Democracy and slowly over time the people lose power as the government's powers grow.
When the power in government is centralized more and more over time, Democracy is slowly eroded and replaced by dictatorships as it loses all accountability and roles are reversed and power shifts from the people to the government.
Democracy Is Inconvenient
For strong-willed political leaders that want or at least pretend to want to change things for the people often find the Democratic process limiting and frustrating and call for extra powers or large and fast changes.
Some would argue that it waists a lot of money and is extremely inefficient and slow, but this is fundamental to a Democracy. It is these inconveniences that hold power in check and keeps radical change from destroying countries.
We should be wary of people calling for giving more power to the government and looking to undermine any of our Democratic processes and institutions.
Not Voting, ANC Wins
As dissatisfaction with the ANC grows and complaints and protests start to increase. One strategy that some long time ANC supports employ is to not vote, and they then see this as punishing the ANC.
The problem with this strategy is that it favours the currently in power. By not voting nothing changes and the ANC continues as they always have.
Democracy only works if people vote and when they vote they do not vote out of loyalty, but rather based on actual performance. The only way to punish the ANC is to vote for another party.
Not voting or deliberately spoiling your vote only punishes yourself and the people of South Africa.
Does It Matter Who Delivers?
People are built to be loyal. We are often loyal to a brand, and part of this loyalty is a habit. We like familiar things, and we don't like change.
Unfortunately, Democracy functions best when voters of the ruling party are not loyal, but rather ruthless in their evaluation and change their vote if performance is poor.
If people want service delivery and a corruption-free government, does it matter who delivers the goods as long as the people get the service they want and deserve?
People Power & Democratic Accountability
All Democracies, good or bad are dependent on the people because in a Democracy the people have the power, not the government and we get the leaders we deserve.
If nobody bothers to vote, the current government will stay the current government. If the people vote for the current government based on race, loyalty or anything other than performance, then the people get what they deserve. Democracy breaks down and the power moves away from the people into the hands of the government.
If the people use their power by voting, they can punish poor performance, hold corruption accountable and get the service delivery they seek.
Voting is a powerful human right, you can use it or waste it.