Post-election woes and hope for a better tomorrow | Sunday Observer

Post-election woes and hope for a better tomorrow

“An electoral system is rarely the ultimate or only cause of grievances in a society or the single solution for its challenges. It is only one component of a country’s constitutional design”- Kofi Annan

By now most probably, you have seen or heard the results of the general election held on Wednesday, August 5, to elect 225 members for the 16th Parliament of the country. But this article was submitted to the paper before that and the writer had no knowledge of the outcome of the election at that time.

Therefore, the references to winners, losers and any and all other components regarding elections are all in general terms and do not implicate any such component involving the 2020 elections.

This is an attempt to provide some food for thought about post-election woes people in general and Sri Lankans in particular go through after an election under such systems categorised as democracies similar to ours.

Nowadays we can find candidates from all walks of life starting from people who have not had any formal education all the way to PhD holders, from different ethnic and or religious backgrounds and from the lowest to the highest spiritual echelon of society.

Irrespective of what they say in public, the reasons they decide to be candidates may vary from the most genuine compassionate needs of serving humanity to the most selfish motives of becoming rich and powerful. Eligible voters of a country can be divided into two main categories as: A) Voting and B) Nonvoting.

Different categories

People in these categories can again be sub-divided into different groups depending on the way they make their decisions. People may decide to vote: i) for a political party, ii) for a particular candidate, iii) against a certain party or a candidate, iv) for the policies of the party and v) for no particular reason.

Category B can have sub-divisions of people who: i) don’t believe in electoral systems, ii) do not have any concern about the outcome of such elections, iii) do not trust the fairness and the impartiality of the election, iv) are not satisfied with any of the candidates and v) are scared of threats by rivals, terrorists or diseases or are too lazy to go to the polling booth.

Assuming that a certain party or a coalition wins the majority of the seats in Parliament making them the ruling majority with the rest of the elected members being in the opposition, the candidates and the voters end up being categorised into three main groups. The ruling majority and their supporters will be considered as the winners with power, the other elected members and their supporters as winners without power and those not elected and their supporters as losers.

More often than not, the campaign leading to the elections abound with personal attacks and verbal warfare between candidates that can lead the supporters of those candidates even to physical attacks on each other. People have lost their lives due to both pre- and post-election violence in countries such as Sri Lanka.

All the parties and candidates try to use intermediary organisations such as the media and trade unions to reach the public, expecting party loyalty and predictable voting behaviour. With digital and social media getting into the equation, the speed with which the news reaches the people is faster than ever and the mainstream media now has a rich feeding ground.

Commercial mass media gained ground as the most important engineers of social consensus that can make or break a candidate. Organised civil societies became obsolete where people became just consumers of news, and casting one’s vote began to emerge as the only right that is protected for an individual.

Some of the postings in social media had the language and or graphic that a decent family cannot enjoy together and some others were extremely offensive to groups of people. Democracy, which evolved as the best system of government to unite people and make collective decisions for the benefit of the whole society, has now become the most efficient divider of people that caters to the fancies of corrupt individuals the world over.

Democratic Fatigue Syndrome

These downward trends, sometimes, are the main reasons for some people to refrain from voting and or not to trust the system. That together with the hopelessness they experience after every election can perhaps be described as the ‘Democratic Fatigue Syndrome.’

I would like to name the post-election behaviour common to different groups of people described above as ‘Post-Election Disorders’ with the abbreviation PESD where S represents a different word corresponding to each different group. Winners with power, rightfully, would be celebrating their achievement after the elections. Sometimes they choose to show their newly acquired power to seek revenge from their opponents by violent means.

This aggressive behaviour can be described as the ‘Post-Election Strength Disorder’. There are some candidates and parties who look for the sweetest deal to sell themselves for different coalitions while others canvas for ministries and other benefits. There are individual supporters and support groups also canvassing for high ranking positions in the government.

This behaviour can be described as the ‘Post-Election Self-serving Disorder’. People who did not get elected and their supporters are going to be upset and even be depressed for some time. They will be suffering from ‘Post-Election Stress Disorder’. Then there are some who do not have any concerns about the election results and or do not wish to get involved in any political process explicitly.

That behaviour can be described as ‘Post-Election Solace Disorder’. All these PESDs result either from lack of knowledge about how a democratic system should work or from intentional abuse of citizens’ trust in the process under the guise of democracy. It is unfortunate that democracy is reduced to an election for selecting representatives who more often than not represent only themselves.

Winning the next election has become more important than fulfilling the promises made in the last and therefore it is increasingly difficult for the citizens of the country to reap the best they deserve from a democratic system of governance.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic for over twenty years in the USA and thirteen years in Sri Lanka and can be contacted at [email protected]