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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Democracy, or the lack of ...

When is a democracy not a democracy? When it's in Briton!

If you ask any politician, they will tell you that Great Briton is a democracy. They are how ever incorrect and I feel it's very important for the average person in Briton to understand why the politicians are wrong and why we are not living in a democratic country.

Democracy is power coming from the people and this is the one thing that will bring hardened politicians awake in the middle of the night screaming.

Well what exactly is democracy?

The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) "power from the people", which was found from δῆμος (dêmos) "people" and κράτος (krátos) "power"

Democracy by definition means the government by people. That means that all the people should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives. Dictionaries usually say that this right can either be exercised directly (by all members of a community having the possibility to enter personally, without mediators, their position on a particular issue into the decision making process - modern technology is able to provide this possibility for increasingly larger and larger communities), or through representatives (members of legislative bodies). This second arrangement is then called Representative Democracy.
Representative democracy would be fine if the representatives would really make all their decisions only after consulting their constituencies. In the least, after having a clear idea about the views of their constituents on a particular issue, and trying to accommodate these views as best as possible (or postpone the decisions until an overwhelming majority of the constituents would be happy with them).
Unfortunately, a vast majority of countries that call themselves Representative Democracies are not true democracies according to the above definition. Most of them are actually just Elected Dictatorships. People can vote usually only once every four or five years. They do not vote on any issues. They just elect their so called representatives who then until the next elections have no obligations by law and little incentives to base their decisions on individual issues on the wishes on their electorate. They hardly ever bother to consult them on their stands on various issues. Therefore, legislative bodies composed of such "representatives" act in a very dictatorial manner between the elections.

Democracy is where the average person gets to have a say in how the country is run, and the country is run to benefit the population as a whole rather than a small proportion of voters, the politicians and the party's they are in and a select elite. As a practical exercise, try writing to your politician asking them to represent you and your views or concerns in parliament (which is their job after all) in a matter that goes against their party's policy. They will do nothing, if you are lucky you'll get a generic reply, which begs the question, who is your MP really serving, their constituents who voted them in or their party? MP have to tow the line as they say which means it's the party's interests first and their constituents/country a poor second!

It's about now that the politicians would be jumping up and down and shouting “but we give you a vote in the elections! That's democracy right there!” The elections are however anything but democratic. Briton uses a voting system called First Past The Post, FPTP. This voting system benefits the two major party's as they only need to collect a small percentage of the overall votes in order to get into power. Small party's that can't put a candidate in every constituency don't stand a chance and yet over all may pull in a greater number of votes. In many areas voters want to support their chosen party but can't, and are then faced with ether not voting or worse voting for a party they don't believe in.

Every government since the 1950s has taken power based on less than 50% of the popular vote. None has won majority public support at the ballot box. In the 2005 election, Labour won 35% of the vote but bagged 55% of the seats. Of eligible voters, only 22% voted Labour. Yet with the support of only one-fifth of the electorate Labour won a 66-seat majority. This is not democracy. It echoes the gerrymanderingi and ballot-rigging of two centuries ago, which galvanised the Chartists to campaign for a democratic, representative parliament. The electoral process is "rigged". In 2005, if you total all the votes cast for the main parties, it took an average 26,906 votes to elect a Labour MP, 44,373 to elect a Tory MP and 96,539 votes to elect a Lib Dem MP. Not since the rotten boroughs of the 18th century have elections been so corrupt. This democratic deficit is a direct result of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, which allows the election of MPs and governments with minority support. FPTP enabled Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair to win landslide majorities based on popular votes of only 35% to 44%. FPTP has resulted not in ‘strong, stable government’, but in bad, divisive, unpopular, unrepresentative government, set against the backdrop of an angry, anti-political, even apolitical, climate, in which the will of the majority is ignored, and anyone left of centre has no major party to vote for.

So what should we do? We as in the electorate. We need to take power back from the undemocratic party's by forcing them to adopt a voting system that works for us and not just for the two big party's. Politicians need to represent us, not just their own best interests. I think that proportional representation is one of the better options open to us.

Proportional Representation. An electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them. Proportional systems protect against bad, unrepresentative public policy, and ensure that the wishes of all voters – not just those in marginal constituencies – are taken into account.

iIn the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander, however, that word can also refer to the process. The term gerrymandering has negative connotations.   

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