ballot box

[Syed Badrul Ahsan is a Bangladeshi journalist and biographer based in the UK. He is a member of the executive of the Commonwealth Journalists Association and writes for Commonwealth Opinion and the School of Advanced Studies, University of London (SAS) Talking Humanities blog. Opinions expressed in articles do not reflect the editorial position of the Round Table.]

A good election is a striving for excellence  . . .

Good elections are a joy to live through, for they are a reaffirmation of the power of the people to choose a government they believe will help them utilize their potentials as a society. A good election is therefore one which reasserts the majesty of the people through the considered opinion of the electorate as articulated at the ballot box.

A good election, in more ways than one, is a battle of ideas, a healthy rivalry between politicians and between political parties on the best means of persuading people to believe in the future. In the campaign for a good election, it is the people who matter, for the people look to the political classes for a fresh new sense of direction insofar as the times to be are the issue.

In a good election shines the ability of citizens to exercise their right of franchise freely and without intimidation from elements lurking in the bushes. Indeed, it is a good election which sends such elements packing and back into the deep jungles where they must stay.

In a good election, it is policies and programmes which candidates are expected to articulate before citizens as they move from door to door with clasped hands. Because a good election is serious business, it becomes the sacred responsibility of candidates for office to explain their objectives to voters in profound humility.

A good election is a rejection of arrogance, a refusal on the part of the voter to agree with the candidates all the way. Therefore, a good election is somewhat more than a candidate laying forth his thoughts on governance. It is, importantly, a question of empathizing with voters, through asking them about the pain they may have gone through in the preceding five years, about their hopes for the next five.

A good election is an opportunity for politicians to partake of the ideas of the common masses, for these common masses live from day to day waiting for tomorrow and yet not knowing what tomorrow will bring for them. Food on the table, good wages and purposeful education for their children are the quilt comprising their dreams.

For a candidate who means to be a politician of commitment, a good election is a chance to promise citizens a fulfillment of all these dreams, the arithmetic involved already on his fingertips. A good election is never about haranguing the crowd. It is not about a mouthing of generalities. It is not about self-appreciation on the part of the candidate. It is all about an expression of pragmatism, a step toward reassuring the citizen that his vote is the key to the emergence of the next dawn.

A good election is fundamentally and fully about respect, for the rival candidate, for the voters, for the country. It is that moment when the candidate will rise above himself, will go beyond the partisan, to reassure his constituency and not just his party faithful that he means to speak, should he be elected, for every voter and for his family in his electoral region.

In a good election, substance rather than platitudes matters. It is a time when the performance of parties over the preceding five years is put to the test by the people, indeed when the litmus test is applied to an examination of past performance before citizens can decide if more of the same is in order or change is called for. A good election is a study of the preparedness to govern of those who aspire to power.

A good election is an open, unfettered right of voters to make their way to the polling booths and make their choices known through secret ballot without interference from extraneous quarters. It is not about commandeering ballot boxes or sending people back home because their votes have already been cast, by others.

A good election is a powerful, assertive Election Commission ready and willing and able to have its fiat run all across the country. It is about policemen and presiding officers not tilting toward, or blatantly proclaiming their preference for, persons and parties and so not compelling people to do as they are bidden. In a good election, physical threat or psychological pressure exercised on voters is a grievous crime inviting opprobrium, along with an exercise of the justice system.

A good election gives birth to a parliament of men and women brimming with ideas, with powerful imagination, with an ability to feel the pulse of a nation twenty four hours a day and every day. It is an exercise which promises the nation healthy debate in parliament and riveting exchanges of ideas on other platforms. A good election aims at the rise of a class of politicians professional in outlook, liberal in deportment and competent in handling issues of grave import to citizens.

In a good election, it is men and women who have spent their adult lives trekking through hamlets and villages and towns eventually coming by the opportunity to serve, indeed to govern. A good election is the inauguration of an enterprising new government ready to hit the road running. It is, in good measure, an opportunity for the opposition to serve as a government-in-waiting, a shadow administration as it were. A good election is a rejection of political carpetbaggers.

A good election is about bringing people together, about citizens taking diverse paths to a common goal. It eschews the parochial and creates larger spaces for politicians and citizens to share. A good election is not about the majority claiming the country for itself. It is about keeping the country in trust with those who have gained power, about parliament speaking for all citizens.

Through a good election, a nation acquires newer forms of political sophistication, with victor and vanquished respecting the verdict of the public, with governance getting meaningfully underway.

A good election is a promise of the high place of human rights in a society, a pledge of the sanctity of the rule of law, a guarantee of transparency and accountability in the exercise of power.

A good election is proof of the charisma of present leadership and promise of new leadership to be.

At the end of the day, a good election is all about a promotion and propagation of the public weal.

It is about the endless, persistent human striving for excellence in the pursuit of life.