We will talk a little about democracies in Asia. Their version of democracy is very different from the way democracies work in the western hemisphere. The only common thing is that elections are held every 4 four years, apart from that democracy does not play a big part in the daily life of people in most Asian countries.
For democracy to work properly two things need to be present:
- A people capable of having a public opinion
- Independent institutions that can prosecute wrongdoers
The lack of a public opinion will cause any democratic system to break down and instead of a government elected by the people, a regime will assume power.
“The lack of a public opinion will cause any democratic system to break down”
Most of you will remember the Clinton affair where the former president of the USA did not have any sexual relations with a certain Miss Lewinsky. However, the public opinion and various headlines in the news were enough to bring dear old Clinton down.
I would say personal affairs does not have anything to do with running a country, however others might argue that it revealed a flaw in character. One might argue that the integrity of presidential candidates must remain intact before assuming any position of leadership.
“One might argue that the integrity of presidential candidates must remain intact before assuming any position of leadership”
In european countries, if the Prime Minister is hiring a relative, not in order to increase the political power base which is the case in many Asian countries, but simply to give the poor chap a job, then all hell will break loose. The public opinion will make sure of that.
Somehow in most Asian countries there is no public opinion at all. People may scream out loud about wrongdoings, nothing will happen. There may be thousands of scandals, thousands of headlines in the media, again, nothing will happen.
“People may scream out loud about wrongdoings, nothing will happen. There may be thousands of scandals, thousands of headlines in the media, again, nothing will happen”
Wrongdoing has no consequence when there is no public opinion and then as a result there will most likely be someone abusing power to serve his own interests.
The lack of independent institutions that can prosecute wrongdoers means corruption will flourish. Certain Asian countries ought to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for corruption.
“The lack of independent institutions that can prosecute wrongdoers means corruption will flourish”
We will have a system of husbands, wifes, uncles, children and in-laws, all running for election to make sure that the power stays within the family clan, also known as dark money politics. The wealthy clan seems to be interested in assuming power at any cost, even if it means that the country will be strangulated economically. Personal interests seem to take precedence over public interests.
The politicians, both the ones in power and the opposition, are not interested in introducing fully independent institutions that can prosecute wrongdoers. They don’t want to it because it would hurt their own interests. After all, most politicians in Asian countries enter politics only to make money.
“The politicians, both the ones in power and the opposition, are not interested in introducing fully independent institutions that can prosecute wrongdoers”
We will often end up having run-away power in the hands of a single extremely wealthy person. This person will have full control of everything, the court system, the police, the army, the lawmaking process etc. This person will be untouchable, he cannot be removed or punished by law. He will not only be above the law, he will be writing the law. This person may have been elected by a majority of the population but what comes after the election has nothing to do with democracy.
Severe abuse of power will often lead to a coup d’etat, the army will take over temporarily. One side will argue that you can’t do that, you can’t overthrow a legally elected government. In their mindset the government is free to pass any law it may want. It does not matter whether the law is morally or ethically wrong, it does not matter whether the law is good for the country or not.
The principle of good governance is essential for democracy to work properly, however neither the voters nor the politicians seem to honour that principle. In their view the rule is very simple: We, the government, can do as we please.
“Severe abuse of power will often lead to a coup d’etat, the army will take over temporarily”
In a country with no public opinion, no checks and balances and no independent institutions a state of chaos and instability is likely. The public opinion is feared in the west but it actually serves a purpose. It makes sure that wrongful actions have consequences.
Accumulation of power by the executive branch of government will eventually lead to a coup d’etat. With no checks and balances against a government problems will most likely arise.
While the concept of “one person, one vote” and respect for majoritarian rule sounds right, it may lead to problems in certain countries.
The solution may be to decentralise power so that people can have a greater voice in their own region.
An ultra-strong prime minister that basically decides everything by himself will most likely be met by resistance, perhaps resistance by a minority but a resistance that may cause instability and violence.