Monday, February 22, 2010


Several developing countries in Asia and Africa proudly proclaim themselves to be democratic countries. To prove to the world about their democratic credentials, they hold elections with much fanfare. There are countries in Asia and Africa where the ruling group end up getting almost 100% votes, making the democracy itself to be a mockery. Several army generals who climb to power by adopting dubious means and overthrowing regimes by coercive methods , also hold elections and declare themselves as President or Prime Minister.

Now, we need to realize that while elections are part of the democratic process, elections are not the be all and end all of democracy. If the elections would not lead to peaceful and conducive atmosphere for initiating welfare measures and assuring liberty to the people, then such elections can be viewed as counter productive and even as farce. This is the reason that several so called democratic countries in Asia and Africa , really do not have the credibility, not measuring up to the concept of democracy.

Most of the world public opinion applauded Sri Lanka when it went for Presidential election recently and it was the widespread view that Sri Lanka showed maturity and confidence by holding Presidential elections immediately after the ethnic war. The admiration even grew a level higher , when the Chief of the Army staff who was instrumental along with the President in successfully ending an internal war, resigned his position voluntarily and contested the Presidential election. The whole world thought that there cannot be a better example of a vibrant democracy.

Unfortunately, all this euphoria ended in deep disappointment for the world observers and became an anti climax, when the President and the former Chief of Army staff who were the prime candidates , became bitter enemies and burying the culture of democracy in the process. The situation turned so bad that the former Chief of Army Staff who lost the election was arrested and is now facing court martial threat.

While this is the scenario, another parliamentary election will now take place in Sri Lanka. Obviously, the citizens who voted in the recent elections and who can think for themselves would wonder whether such elections do any good at all , considering the bitterness and enmity that they cause. They may hesitate to go and vote once again.

If those who contest elections do not have the caliber and quality of mind to maintain correct attitude and concern about the opponent candidate, then in that case the spirit of democracy fails and elections become a wasteful exercise.

In such situations, holding elections will do more harm than good.

Column by:
N. S. Venkataraman

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