How much for your vote?

By Shenali Waduge

While political parties may take pains to prepare competitive election manifestos, does the contents of each manifesto steer the voter to vote? I don’t think so.

In a voting system that usually rotates governance between the two major political parties in Sri Lanka, it leaves little or no choice to the voter, but to choose the lesser evil or not cast their vote at all. This has been the practice over the years at every election held and has eventually led the voter to vote based not only any policy but purely based on one’s own personal agenda.

For the less literate in Sri Lanka it is the usual the goody bag of promises that steer them to cast their vote. For those that couldn’t care less who wins or loses, it is usually the bottle of arrack and a lunch packet that will make them cast their vote. These are the very people who help the political party secure the much needed votes, to come into power.

However, the most regrettable fact is how most middleclass and rich also become party to the farce of voting, by the manner in which they blindly vote, purely for the parampara allegiance to a particular political party, the tragedy of it being that whatever wrong, the party does they would still cast their vote for the party and its candidates. An excellent example was the comedy of errors during the Colombo Municipality elections, when the people voted for the present Mayor of Colombo, thinking they were actually helping to bring members of their favourite color to power.

That really leaves less than perhaps 5% voters who actually vote by studying the policies of the party vying for power. Not that any political party would think this small percentage is significant when it comes to votes! Thus when it is an easy exercise to obtain majority of votes by bribing them with a bottle of arrack, a lunch packet and the assurance that ones “party devotees” will always vote, why would any political party feed the need to worry about a small minority, like the 5%, who are bothered about the real future of the country?

Set against this backdrop of the current voting system, with the political forces circulating power between them, leaves little or no hope for the country. The very parties that hold governance are ironically given the mandate by the people, to iron out policies for the Nation and it is within this farce that the country has journeyed throughout post-Independence.

Yet, in a democratic nation if the power lies with the people who elect a party to power, then surely the public should also be given the mandate to question the policies and actions taken by the Government they have brought to power. The public should not have to agonize for six years to bring another evil force into power for the vicious circle to continue unabated.

It is time to wake up to the fact that the merry men in Parliament will never bring forth any solution to any of the ills that prevails in the country, if it is likely to be disadvantageous to any of them. Whether they are in the ruling or in the opposition this is the only common element they all share. Each time any party brings forth recommendations or proposals they keep dragging the issue, finally taking the entire nation for a ride. It is time that the citizens become more accountable to not only themselves but also to the Nation and demand that they be given the fundamental right to hold the Government in power and all other Members associated with the Government directly responsible to the highest court in Sri Lanka, for breaking the mandate given to them. It would also be opportune too to finally take the bold steps of demanding that all political party manifestos be legally binding, so that the public will have the right to take to task any Member of Parliament, for breaking them.

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