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Of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians

Mar 05,2020 - Last updated at Mar 05,2020

Once upon a time, democratic systems worldwide did their best to cater to the needs of the people. At this point in time, only a handful of systems in the world can lay claim to this noble ideal. Most have not only failed to live up to it, but radically diverted from it.

Traditionally and historically, governance in democratic countries was largely a reflection of the will of the people. It is the people who either voted directly on matters, through referendums or other means, or elected representatives to conduct business on their behalf.

In most democracies, the people’s representatives did their best to reflect the aspirations, positions and demands of the people. Be they in the legislative or executive branches of government, the elected representatives made it a priority to keep the channels with their constituencies open, so that their stands on matters embodied as much as possible the stands of the constituencies.

Equally importantly, the elected politicians on both the left and right side of the spectrum did their utmost to be either mainstream or represent the wish and will of what may be called the “civil” majority. Adoption of extremist positions, to the left or right, was a rarity.

Relative moderation was generally the rule.

In this sense, Abraham Lincoln was right when he asserted, in his famous Gettysburg address, that government is essentially “of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

At this point in time, however, democracy in several key countries in the world has nearly abandoned such a fundamental principle.

Sound democracy has not “perish[ed] from the earth”, to borrow a term from Lincoln’s address, but it has become less entrenched. And many politicians have turned their back to it.

Two particularly worrying trends have become common practice.

The first is for politicians to adopt provocative, loud, rude and extremist positions, instead of the usual sober, mature and wise stands. The appeal here is not to the mainstream segments of the population, who cling as much as possible to the human and humane ideals of inclusion and tolerance, but to hardline, extremist and intolerant constituencies.

The second, equally worrying, is for politicians to cater to their own agendas, epitomised in manipulating electorates and processes to ensure that “they” themselves win and augment their hold on power. It is the “after me the flood” mentality and approach.

As a result of these two unholy, interconnected developments, we have started seeing “the people” largely alienated.

And we have also started witnessing the emergence of “dictator” rulers in democracies: Self-serving politicians who have hijacked the entire democratic process and aligned themselves only with electorates who ensure their triumph at the polls regardless of any principles or values. It is the end justifying the means in its most horrible form.

Rather than democracy being of the people, by the people, for the people; much of it has now become: of the politicians, by the politicians, and for the politicians.

Very sad indeed!

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