Allan Takes Aim Blog

ACT opinions

Posted on: 21 October 2012

How democratic are elections?

Is winning a seat in parliament a success and not winning a failure? Some incumbent politicians I know subscribe to the former but as someone who has tasted defeat as a political candidate I have never thought of my defeat as a failure. I have never taken that view because an election is but one battle in a political war. So I say to those Independent and small party candidates who have been defeated in the ACT election, if you think your ideas better than the ideas of those elected, continue to fight for them.

Of the 17 candidates elected in the Australian Capital Territory some will continue taking another four year walk along the political success road with some taking the first step on that road. Sadly, however, the electoral process will make many of the defeated wonder if their effort to get on the road had been worthwhile.

While I understand their feeling of disappointment my answer is: yes! Even if they only attracted one vote, that one vote says that in the battle of ideas they had had a small win. And while my answer might be of little consolation to them let me add that if they keep fighting their ideas might eventually help inspire a hundred, a thousand or even thousands of voters to support them. History stands testament to that statement.

Although this election is over, the political war continues and during the next four years voters will discover if the winners of the battle live up to their election promises. Voters will also have time to think about why, when it came to voting, did they allow themselves to be influenced by organisations to vote for particular candidates.

As the days and weeks pass, they might also wonder if the candidates they voted for had the qualities necessary to govern on behalf of the community or were they merely puppets acting on the behalf of those organisations. This is why in an increasingly complex world all voters should find out more about the qualities and talents of the less well known candidates before voting.

ACT voters should also start thinking about our voting system. Does it serve democracy well or does it favour the big political parties and people of influence?

It is also easy to be persuaded to the view that the Hare-Clarke system with Robson Rotation is democracy at its best. While I do not question that it is a good system nevertheless it does seem a system only suitable for an ideal world where ideology does not exist.

Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world; it is also unlikely that we ever will. The fact is, we live in a world where the war of politics is a war of ideas in which society is permanently engaged. And though due the advance of technology weapons in the war will change, it will still be a war of opposing ideas that each of its proponents want to win.

Let me say that political wars are not wars of peace which is why coalitions are never satisfactory. Coalitions are never satisfactory because junior partners in coalitions who always think their ideas the best, often prevent the best ideas from being put into practice.

In a slightly different context politics is a different version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and World War I, the war to end all wars and all the wars which promise peace. And just as military wars have never delivered peace, neither have political wars; wars alaways have been and always will be never ending.

And so will it be in the ACT. Parties and protagonists in the warsw will change and in the intervals between them we will be overjoyed by what passes for political peace until a new battle in a political war is joined.


2 Responses to "ACT opinions"

Your point about coalitions is very true. Most opponents of 2 party systems think multi-party systems are the answer and they clearly are not. They simply have a different set of problems. There may be a way to constitutionally codify a multi-party system so that minor parties influence is limited in the coaltion or perhaps the majority party rules without a coalition even in the case that they do not hold a majority in parliament thus making any coalition one of issues or temporary alliances. Whatever the solution it must involve a creative re-imagining of the purpose of governance as there is no existing system that works satisfactorily.

Scott, I’m glad you think I’m right about coalitions. The problem that the creative re-imagining of the purpose of governance faces is that immediately somone says they have solved it, thousands of people will emerge with a different solution. Nevertheless it’s important that people keep trying. Regards, Don

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