Handbook for winners and losers in elections

The article was published on May12 2013 when election results were pouring in

verdict
Handbook for winning and losing candidates
If you or your party has won, ask your supporters to remain within the limits of law. Bury the hatchet. Visit all your fellow contestants and build a democratic, moderate Pakistan
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/May2013-weekly/nos-12-05-2013/pol1.htm#1

By the time these lines are published, the country would have sailed through the exciting process of general elections — peacefully, fairly and transparently, one hopes.

Everyone who contests elections is ultimately a winner or a loser. Obviously, there can only be one winner amongst the contesting candidates. And if that one is not you, accept the verdict of the electorate and your defeat wholeheartedly.

Otherwise, there will be no difference between you and the extremists who, instead of allowing people to vote as per their sweet will, imposed their choices over them by attacking some parties and asking the people to remain away from them.

Don’t build conspiracy theories or indulge in allegations of rigging for rationalising the win of your opponent. And never indulge in anti-polls campaign as anti-democracy forces would surely benefit from it as has always been the case during the past.

Build new sound precedents. For example, call or visit your victorious opponent to felicitate him/her over the victory. We have something to learn from the developed countries in this regard. Candidates there indulge in criticising the opponents but once elections are held, the loser readily accepts the defeat and congratulates the winner.

And if you or your party have won, ask your supporters to remain within the limits of law and morality. Be patient, caring and unselfish. Bury the hatchet. Invite or better visit all your fellow contestants together. Ask them to guide and help you in serving the masses. Take their feedback as to what were the most important and urgent items on their agenda had they won. Keep in touch with them. This will help you better serve your constituency.

This is what democracy demands to take roots in our country: the spirit of tolerance, conciliation and cooperation on part of both the loser and winner.

With the ECP independent, the print and electronic media highly active and vigilant, voters lists cleared of bogus votes, elaborate arrangements made for conducting free and transparent elections and the people resilient to vote and so on, no party or candidate would continue to harp on the theory of massive rigging or establishment’s interference in favour of some parties to reject the polls results.

All this had made it impossible for parties or individual candidates to indulge in taking over polling stations and rigging on a massive scale as was witnessed in some previous elections.

We have had enough of selective morality. We have had several times been hit by the ‘I don’t accept’ mentality. Pakistan was dismembered mainly for the fact that Sheikh-Mujeebur Rehman-led Awami League, the winner of the 1970 election, was not allowed to form government as per the mandate given to it.

Similarly, in 1977, the military took over as the opposition agitated against the alleged rigging in elections. The period between 1988 to1999 was characteristic of an acute political polarisation between the major parties with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.

Between 1988 and 1999, five governments were sworn in against the required/normal two. It was because the PPP and the PML-N wasted no opportunity in dislodging the other by indulging themselves in palace intrigues, and horse-trading, etc.

Going by the principles of popular sovereignty and representative democracy, no one can justify the shenanigans of the religious and political leadership during these years. Some religious figures, unabashedly, played in cohort with the establishment. Routed by the people in 1993, a religious leader didn’t accept the people’s verdict against his wishes and continued his famous Dharnas and ‘million marches’ until the elected government of Benazir Bhutto was dislodged. Then he boycotted the next polls for he wanted elections be preceded by accountability. He didn’t own up these results either because he wanted something else.

The PPPP, the ANP and the MQM, no doubt, didn’t get the level playing field for the TTP threats. There were fears they might go for the boycott, but luckily sanity prevailed. But I am unconvinced if these attacks and threats had any worthwhile negative impact on their final results. Instead, they were judged on the basis of their performance during the previous government. And as the Pakistani electorate usually supports those who are on the receiving end and done wrong to, they might have, instead, gained from the sympathy wave.

The other parties, which the TTP didn’t target, relished freedom to organise rallies and conduct elections campaign the way they wanted. They felt happy for the leverage they got vis-à-vis their counterparts and hoped to capitalise on it. But as it became certain their freedom might not benefit them as they wished, some parties and leaders started talking in strange terms.

For example, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the JUI-F chief, warned that non-state actors would decide the destiny of Pakistan if moderate politics of the JUI-F were blocked. He said the JUI-F was the hope of the nation and the country but conspiracies were being hatched to keep the JUI-F out of the democratic politics. “If our path is blocked, the people would lose faith in parliamentary politics and hence democracy and the country will lose enormously,” he added.

A worker of another religious party recently told me his party chief said if his party path was blocked, they would reconsider their strategy for bringing a change in the country. He quoted the leader as saying that opinions differ on the point as to whether change can be brought through elections or other means. “Some argue otherwise. But I fear if the path of our party was blocked, they would gain majority and I would be hard-pressed to conform,” he said.

What this practically means? Isn’t it a bare warning to the people: Elect us or you would be strengthening those who are against democracy? Can a democratic leader talk this way?

Despite several issues associated with democracy in Pakistan — rigging, horse-trading, role of money in elections, dynasties and feudalism, weak legal framework to impose election laws, etc — democracy is arguably the best ever system of election, governance and accountability contrived so far.

Elections afford the people an opportunity on regular intervals to dismiss those in power if they fail to deliver. It is for the safety, welfare and empowerment of the masses and, thus, cannot be discredited.

The future is now in your hands. Give confidence and hope to the nation that has seen little to cherish in the past. Help build a democratic, moderate and tolerant Pakistan by being a role-model for the nation.

  …………………………………

Original text of the article

Burying the hatchet Or Needed a democratic behaviour

By Tahir Ali

By time these lines are published, the country will have sailed through the exciting process of general elections –peacefully, fairly and transparently, one wishes.

Everyone who contests elections is ultimately a winner or loser. Obviously, there can only be one winner amongst the contesting candidates. And if that one is not you, If you were a candidate but lost elections, accept the verdict of the electorate and your defeat wholeheartedly. Otherwise, there will be no difference between you and the extremists who instead of allowing the people to vote as per their sweet will, imposed their desires/choices over them by attacking some parties and asking the people to remain aloof from them.     

Don’t build conspiracy theories or indulge in allegations of rigging for rationalising the win of your opponent. And never indulge in anti-polls campaign as anti-democracy forces would surely benefit from it as has always been during the past.

Build new sound precedents. For example, call or better visit your victorious opponent along with your supporters to felicitate him/her over the victory.

We have something to learn from the West in this regard. Candidates there indulge in scathing, though not depraved, criticism of the opponents but once elections are held, the loser readily accepts the defeat and congratulates the winner.

And if you or your party have won, ask your supporters to merry but within the limits of law and morality. Be patient, caring and unselfish. Bury the hatchet. Invite or better visit all your fellow contestants together. Ask them to guide and help you in serving the masses. Take their feedback as to what were the most important and urgent items on their agenda had they won. Keep in touch with them. This will help you better serve your constituency.

This is what democracy demands to take roots in our country: the spirit of tolerance, conciliation and cooperation on part of both the loser and winner.

With the ECP independent, the print/electronic media highly active and vigilant, the Establishment neutral, having no darlings, voters lists cleared of bogus votes, elaborate arrangements made for conducting free and transparent elections and the people resilient to vote and almost all parties took part in elections despite threats, no party or candidates in its/his right senses would continue to harp on the theory of massive rigging or establishment’s interference in favour of some parties to reject the polls results.

All this had made it impossible for parties or individual candidates to indulge in taking over polling stations and rigging on massive scale as was witnessed in previous elections.

We have had enough of selective morality. Win, yes. Defeat, no. We have had several times been hit by the ‘I don’t accept’ mentality. Pakistan was dismembered mainly for the fact that Sheikh-Mujeebur Rehman-led Awami League, the winner of the 1970 election, was not allowed to form government as per the mandate given to it.

 Similarly in 1977, the military took over as the opposition agitated against the alleged rigging in elections (there were indeed some genuine complaints of elections rigging then, but my emphasis is on the fallout of the anti-poll campaign).

The period between 1988 to1999 was characteristic of an acute political polarisation between the major parties with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto alternatively siding with the establishment against the other.

Between 1988 and 1999, five governments were sworn in against the required/normal two. It was because the PPP and PML-N wasted no opportunity in dislodging the other by indulging themselves in palace intrigues, horse-trading and playing as the scions of the establishment against the political opponents with impunity. This behaviour on their part was anything but democratic or in consonance with the notion of popular sovereignty –that it is the people who have the ultimate right to elect their rulers and no one else.

Going by the principles of popular sovereignty and representative democracy, no one can justify the shenanigans of the role of religious and political leadership during these years. Some religious figures unabashedly played in cohort with establishment. Routed by the people in 1993, a religious leader didn’t accept the people’s verdict against his wishes and continued his famous Dharnas and ‘million marches’ until the elected government of Benazir Bhutto was dislodged. Then he boycotted the next polls for he wanted elections be preceded by accountability. He didn’t own up these results either because he wanted something else.

The PPPP, ANP and MQM, no doubt, didn’t get the level playing field for the TTP threats. There were fears they might go for the boycott but luckily sanity prevailed. But I am unconvinced if these attacks and threats had any worthwhile negative impact on their final results. Instead, they were judged on the basis of their performance during the previous government. And as the Pakistani electorate usually supports those who are on the receiving end and done wrong to, they might have, instead, gained from the sympathy wave.      

The other parties, who the TTP didn’t dislike and target, relished freedom to organise rallies and conduct elections campaign the way they wanted. They felt happy for the leverage they got vis-à-vis their counterparts and hoped to capitalise on it. But as it became certain their freedom might not benefit them as they wished, some parties and leaders started talking in strange terms.

 For example, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the JUI-F chief, warned that non-state actors would decide the destiny of Pakistan if moderate politics of JUI-F were blocked. He said the JUI-F was the hope of nation and country but conspiracies were being hatched to keep the JUI-F out of the democratic politics. “If our path is blocked, the people would lose faith in parliamentary politics and hence democracy and country will lose enormously,” he added.

A worker of another religious party recently told me his party chief said if his party path was blocked, they would reconsider their strategy for bringing change in the country. He quoted the leader as saying that opinions differ on the point as to whether change can be brought through elections or other means. “Some argue otherwise. But I fear if the path of our party was blocked, they would gain majority and I would be hard-pressed to conform,” he said.

What this practically means? Isn’t it a bare warning to the people: Elect us or you would be strengthening those who are against democracy? Can a democratic leader talk this way?

Despite several drawbacks associated with Pakistani. brand of democracy –rigging, horse-trading, role of money in elections, dynasties and feudalism, absence of economic liberty for the poor majority, weak legal framework to impose election laws etc – democracy is arguably the best ever system of election, governance and accountability contrived so far.  It affords the people an opportunity on regular intervals to punish those in power if they fail to deliver. It is for the safety, welfare and empowerment of the masses and thus cannot be discredited for the looting and plunders of ‘democratic leaders’.

The future is now in your hands. Give confidence and hope to the nation that has seen little to cherish in the past. Help build a democratic, moderate and tolerant Pakistan by being a role-model for the nation.

Advertisements

About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: