If you live in Queensland, you will be aware that there is a local council election and referendum, relating to the state government’s term, coming up on March 19th. Even though I don’t understand the system there, I know that the USA is currently in the midst of presidential primary elections and they will elect their president later in the year. The Australian Federal election is predicted to be sometime later this year as well.
As ordinary citizens, we sometimes feel that the outcome of elections is beyond our control, and that even if we vote, it will be a choice between a bad candidate and a worse one.
Even though, in Australia, voting is compulsory, there are always those who cast an informal vote (blank or incorrectly completed ballot), or a “donkey vote” (numbering down the page), because they are disillusioned with the whole process. There are also a lot, particularly in council elections, who just pick the incumbent candidate because they know the name.
In the USA, where voting is voluntary, they struggle to get 60% of voters to turn out for presidential elections, and for congressional elections the figure is closer to 40%.
In countries like Syria, citizens would be grateful for the chance to democratically elect a government, even on the off-chance that they might actually represent their wishes. In countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, changes to their political systems since the Arab Spring of 2011 have failed to provide the kind of democratic systems which they hoped for, due to the failure of their governments to ensure the freedom of expression, which is a vital part of a successful democracy. Another key ingredient, the representation of women’s views, has been lacking in a number of new democracies. As countries like Afghanistan begin to educate more of, not only their women, but also their men, hopes for their democracies are improved.
The world is changing.
There was a time, in Australia, and perhaps in the US as well, when, even though we may not have agreed with the politics of our elected officials, we could assume that they would be working in the best interests of their country and its citizens. Or, perhaps we just used to be a lot more naïve. We expected any of the major parties to consider the consequences of their decisions, not only for their current citizens, but for future generations as well.
These days, we are much more aware of the influence of big business on the policies of our governments, no matter what level of government we look at. We know that the votes of politicians can often be bought for 40 pieces of silver which they receive by way of election funding.
Nowadays, we have a much greater responsibility as voters, not only to vote, but to vote with a focus on the world which we wish to leave our children.
Are we confident that the politicians we vote for will continue to uphold the key ingredients of a successful democracy mentioned earlier, particularly freedom of expression?
Are we confident that the politicians we vote for will consider the quality of life they are providing for their current citizens and future generations?
Will we be like the politicians, and sell our votes to those who promise us the best financial outcomes, or will we focus on the real issues affecting the future of our planet and the lives of our children and their children?
With the advent of the internet and social media, we have never been in a better position to know the priorities of our elected officials, and who helped them come into power. Despite the possible bias of media reports, the information we seek about any candidate and their political party is readily available.
We owe it to our grandchildren and to our planet to find out who will best serve them, and to vote accordingly.
Otherwise we might find that we live in a country where freedom of speech was a distant memory? Our grandchildren might need to learn about our wildlife from documentaries, and may find it increasingly difficult to even survive on this planet we are leaving them.
The world is changing – to a world where we are no longer citizens of a council region, of a state, or country, but of a planet. This planet and our grandchildren need us to take an interest in who will make decisions which affect them. And if we can’t find anyone in the current political system who will represent their interests, we owe it to them to change the system, while we still have the power to do so.