Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wooing the Voters - Rules of the game

A government “by the people and of the people” should quite naturally deliver ideal governance “for the people.” But in reality it does not. While it starts with this simple motto of people power, it soon meanders its way into a more complex terrain. A basic problem with democracy is that voters do not make rational or truly informed choices. Their political decision making seems to be driven by emotional criteria plus they have a bias for instant gratification thus keeping most democracies focused on the short term. Freebies, divide and rule, candidates’ X factor and smear campaigns have a large bearing on the voters’ decisions. Long term programs like infrastructure creation and investment in education are hard tasks where benefits come with a time lag and entails a possibility that the one who sows is unlikely to also be the one who reaps. Politicians shy away from such selfless agendas. Emptying the exchequer and giving short term freebies or using a divide and rule strategy has immediate returns with a surer shot at winning elections. The resultant governance in essence is an embodiment of electoral preferences and politicians ability to maneuver around these tendencies. “Elections,” the fundamental process of a democracy, ironically, are the starting point for most of its troubles. Unearthing electoral erroneous zones is the first step to understanding what changes are necessary to move democracy closer to its end goal of good governance as delivered.