Saturday, March 13, 2010

Whither democracy in developing countries ??

Almost every developing country in the world except a few countries like Myanmar and North Korea claim that theirs is a democratic governance. Obviously, democracy as a concept is viewed as the most desirable form of governance and people of every country would like to jump into this band wagon.

However, in actual practice , in many developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the process of democracy is marked by bitter animosity and quarrel between the different political parties , giving an impression as if these countries are in constant turmoil all the time with one group trying to defeat another group to seize power. Large segment of the population of these countries who are not part of the political groups, remain as mere spectators in this so called democratic process and often feel frustrated and helpless. Such people who are not part of any political group many times wonder whether this sort of democracy has done any overall good to the country at all.

What the discerning common people note is that the difference between the political parties in these countries are not due to any fundamental difference in policies and programmes but only due to the personal ambition of the leaders of the political groups.

Of course, elections do take place in these developing countries at periodical intervals, where ruling group can be dislodged in a smooth manner if desired by the people. But, the problem is that these elections are being contested by different political groups who are bitterly opposed to each other and they conduct themselves during the electioneering and thereafter as if they are in the midst of a warfare. They give an impression that they are sworn personal enemies exhibiting sort of hatred towards each other and may go to any extent to destroy each other in their bid to capture power and enjoy the benefits of power thereafter.

In recent times, there have been even more deterioration in the quality of democracy practiced in the developing countries, in that several political groups (political parties) are now controlled by families of the political leaders that would inevitably lead to family rule and sort of feudalism . In the process, the political groups become outfits sans any ideology , with the party cadre pledging loyalty to one political family or the other.

With the family members getting stranglehold of the political parties to achieve their ambitions of seizing power, the philosophy, principles and ideology do not have any significant place any more. What becomes priority to the politicians is only the upliftment of their family members and achievement of their ambitions to seize power and for this they “skillfully” work out schemes to outdo others . In the process, a few political groups (political families) align between themselves to outdo another aligned force and this is what is now known as coalition politics .

Each political group in its anxiety to defeat the other often even go to the extent of maintaining thugs and rowdies in their groups to indulge in violence, settle scores with the opponents, indulge in malpractices in election including bribing the voters etc. Due to this approach, the law and order machinery virtually collapses.

When personal ambitions of the political leaders and the needs of their families become the most important factors , the progress of the country inevitably suffers and the democracy becomes a counter productive movement. Several developing countries seem to be rapidly moving towards this condition.

In such scenario, the democracy loses its purpose and significance and people become disillusioned. The people may then probably think that the rule by a dictator and his family could be even less harmful than this sort of several political groups and their family members spread all over the country and ruling the nation.

After the ethnic war, when Sri Lanka went for presidential elections, it caught the worldwide attention and even admiration to some extent as a vibrant democracy. But all these became anti climax when the political groups and presidential candidates fought the elections, bitterly abusing each other as if they are sworn enemies.

After the poll, the opponent presidential candidate was arrested and is now facing trials , confirming the suspicions of many that the political parties and their leaders have no bigger target than outdoing one another ,unconcerned about the consequences to the national welfare and progress.

It appears that the process of democracy is only a tool for these politicians to climb to power and to control the government and the country and enjoy power and authority for the families and the followers.

On the other hand, the votaries of democracy expect that these political groups should contest the elections on the basis of policies and programmes and should really be competing with each other to provide greater service and benefits to the people and country at large.

In such situation, democracy as a concept appear to have failed in many developing countries. This is certainly a very unfortunate condition since the developing countries have millions of citizens living below poverty line and they desperatively need meaningful and progressive programmes of the government. Such expectations of the people will not be met by ambitious and self serving politicians who have emerged in the democratic system that are now being practiced in the developing countries.

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