Democracy at a heavy personal cost

Editorial

THE isolated incidents of violence, destruction of property and loss of life during this election prove that our version of democracy still has a high personal cost besides the huge logistic challenges faced by the State.
As the hype of the election winds down and we get to tally up the expenses some individuals and families will be left with a sense of deep and permanent loss.
Administrative and logistic foul-ups are bound to happen. But coming this far in the history of our version of democracy, citizens should be wiser and avoid some of the mistakes of previous elections, especially those relating to violence and loss of life.
Media reports indicate otherwise. There have been far too many incidents of violence between supporters of rival candidates, people being manhandled by security personnel and people being killed.
During the start of the nomination period in April, a man was shot in Kerowagi, Chimbu, during a confrontation between supporters of two candidates. Since then, there have been other election-related deaths, injuries and loss of property.
What is obvious from the incidents is that some people willingly risk their jobs, dignity and even lives for the sake of their candidates.
In their push for power and fame, aspiring politicians have even been accused of attempting to lure people charged with the proper conduct of the election to do their bidding. But any candidate who promotes such illegal activities to improve his or her chances of winning is totally unfit to hold public office in any democracy.
Corruption at the polls will certainly follow into the halls of power.
This election is not unlike those in the past but that is not to say that all elections in this country should be marked by violence and loss of lives.
The victims have paid a hefty price for democracy.
It makes no sense that when mostly the already well-to-do bid for the 111 parliamentary seats to improve their status in life, it is largely the innocent villager or settlement dweller who bears the brunt of any lawless act during the election process.
For the best part of five years, the illiterate villager remains out of sight and out of mind. When he gets called to cast his vote, he enjoys a few minutes of recognition, making his contribution to the nation and dissolves back into the masses – until the next election comes around five years later.
Unfortunately, the supposedly innocent villagers are often caught up in the hype of elections and lured into doing things they regret later.
Part of the reason for this unfortunate turn of events during elections is the poor understanding of modern political leadership which is contrary to the traditional tribal leadership in many ways.
Elected office-holders are mandated by law to make laws and deliver government services to benefit the whole electorate, and not just a tribe or group of supporters.
Elections should therefore be about voting in the best people who can do that without stooping to the whims and dictates of tribalism and parochial interests.
The elected MP is a representative of the electorate. And if he is seen to be favouring a select group or parts of the electorate, he ceases to be a fit and fair representative of his electorate.
Unfortunately, the election processes has been used to further tribal pride and prestige resulting in forming factions, hence the inevitable and violence between rival groups of supporters.
Elected MPs are themselves to blame if, through their conduct in their term in office, they are seen to encourage such parochial thinking.
Even when there is unfair distribution of goods and services, real or perceived, there is bound to be tension and anger which come to the fore during the election period.
This has been the main cause of widespread destruction, violence and needless loss of life that must be avoided in future elections.
The 2017 election has not been the best, whichever way one seriously looks at it.

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