Wednesday, 5 October, 2022

International Democracy Day

Does Democracy Mean Only Election?

Dr. Siddhartha Shankar Joarder

Does Democracy Mean Only Election?
Dr. Siddhartha Shankar Joarder

The question becomes pertinent today, the day which is declared international day for democracy, how many elements are essentially induced to run an effective democracy?  Even if any election is conceived to be fair, can we guarantee democracy? Does democracy deals with only a single component? If not, then what should be the exact yardstick by which we can ascertain democracy? Democracy comprehensively comprises of so many issues where election is barely one condition - definitely important than others, if not all.

We are very much sure that upholding human rights, accountability, freedom of expression, and preserving opinion diversity with many others are the fundamental components of democracy where lack of any one may jeopardy the ideals of its stature. Thus, institutional framework and rule of laws play most pivotal role in democratic norms. In practice, we have so many examples to be skeptical that no government can be fully democratic without following all the rules that set to functioning. A very fairly elected government may turn to be oppressive and unfriendly; on the contrary, an un-elected government may win the hearts of people. Therefore, fairly elected or unelected or half-elected whatever the mode of entrance of a government can be is not so much important; important is its effective and holistic functioning. Our goal is to ensure unhindered flow of democracy. Our electoral process is conducted by the election commission but it has nothing to do with the problem of democracy. Democracy is an issue of civic right but election or electoral process is a part of that comprehensive issue.

Democracy is much more than election. To remember, democracy doesn’t always be an issue of the government; it pervades all.  Democracy extends to a long distance that includes all sorts of human behavior no matter be it a tool of government or private. Democracy is a constitutional attitude and behavior towards her organs. Democracy is a cultural issue that always functions within and outside of the government. Very interestingly, people who are crying for democracy do not observe the same in their party or organizational capacity. As a result, fair election does not have any proportional relationship with democratic practice because election is sometimes conceived to be a gateway to be tyrannical.  History repeatedly confirms this proposition.  

Now let’s see the main objectives of issues that make a government democratic and of course, its necessary connection with the elected, quasi-elected or even non-elected governmental representation. Participation or reflection of opinion of all people is important but how it can be ascertained? It is not always feasible to accumulate the opinions on all issues for every time. People’s opinions are immensely diversified because society consists of heterogeneity. Only the majority finally win but the number of people who had the experience of defeat are often non-representative; as a result huge people became out of the net. This is one problem but another is grave. An elected representation is sometimes thought to be sacred because they are given the license to do whatever they want. For a stipulated time, their records are often vehemently shocking. That is why, effective rapport between mass people and the people’s representative is invoked to be certitude. That can be ensured by the people who are culturally democratic, not always to be elected in voting.

A government is envisaged to be good if it allows its laws to be applied equally, no matter how powerful the portfolio is! This is simply called rule of laws. Democratic practice, in most part, depends on this issue. An elected government was experienced to be biased in many cases where lack of the rule of law is very much normal. Caring equal human rights is the genuine factor for justice and democratic ideals; unfortunately history of the violation of rights had been recorded much more than the time of so-called elected tenure. 

Certainly, that doesn’t always mean that an elected government can’t be democratic. This is not what I intend to say here but my conviction is that sometimes elected government and of course fairly elected one doesn’t guarantee equal justice to all for all time. In Bangladesh, examples are not very much insufficient to the sociologists. How many slander instances are recorded at that time only the political analysts confirm that? More appalling is that nobody dares to file any complaint against this diabolism.  Many more gross violations of human rights were recorded during this time; even a blue print of annihilation had been centered round Awami League on August 21 in 2004 that claims two dozen people by deadly grenade attack where Awami League chief were narrowly escaped. This was a state-sponsored perpetration, many sources claimed.  Thus, how can you be ascertained that a fairly elected government can’t be so deadly? 

Bangladesh since independence has been struggling to institutionalize democracy over and over again. But in its fifty years, near two decades were occupied by military and quasi-military rules where the “election” issue became intolerably farce. Even the renovation phase of democracy after 1990s was not uncontroversial. Many issues were deliberately dragged in to de-motivate people including religion and India-phobia etc that finally smashed an environment of free election. So the history of “election” in the country was never innocuous issue. It creates number of problematic issues as if Bangladesh has no problem other than election.  Surprisingly, very little was thought about democracy; more than excess were thought about election in the country. Election issue claims huge number of lives and property, displaced number of people and causes barbaric rape and molestation in the country.  

Now, let us turn to the global concern where the crisis of democracy becomes the challenge of human development. Crisis of democratic functioning is a global issue particularly during the time we are passing through. Human attachment has been increased, lusting for power and the tendencies of acquisitiveness naturally lead to the crisis. Expression of individual opinion has been challenged due to the state censorship and the freedom of journalism has been curtailed due to the fear and injection. On the other hand, media are also taking opportunity to create partial and biased view against democracy. Because of all these challenges United Nations emphasized free expression of opinion and enhancing pluralistic media. Let democracy flourish along its own course.

The writer is a Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, Jagannath University, Dhaka.