Kaieteur News – The electoral outcome of the March 2023 elections, where the APNU+AFC secured 47.34% of the total valid votes cast, does not automatically translate into representing nearly half of the population. This is a crucial distinction to make in any democratic system.
First and foremost, voting for a particular party does not necessarily mean that individuals endorse every aspect of that party’s platform. Voters may be drawn to a party for a variety of reasons, including ethnic support or a dislike of the main opposing party. It is an oversimplification to equate a party’s vote share with their level of public support on all issues.
Unfortunately however Guyana’s political system compounded by a dominant trend of ethnic voting has created an illusion about each of the main parties being the representatives of those who voted for them. This is not entirely so.
The elected government is supposed to act in the interests of all and to represent all of the people, including those who did not vote for them. The Opposition is also supposed to do the same. It is not there to represent only the half that voted for them.
Representative democracy does not mean that a party in parliament only represents its constituents. In a representative democracy, elected representatives have a duty to the entire nation and are expected to make decisions in the best interest of the country as a whole.
Under the Westminster system, there is no inherent compulsion for the ruling party to incorporate the Opposition into executive decision-making. This separation of powers between the government and the Opposition is a fundamental aspect of parliamentary democracy. The Opposition’s primary role is to scrutinize government policies, actions, and legislation to ensure they are in the best interests of the country. By maintaining this separation, the Westminster system fosters healthy competition of ideas and ensures that the government remains accountable to the electorate.
The role of the Opposition in the Westminster system is not to become part of the government but rather to offer itself as an alternative government. This serves as a critical aspect of a functioning democracy. The Opposition’s duty is to propose alternative policies and approaches, providing voters with a genuine choice during elections. By offering a credible alternative, the Opposition keeps the ruling party accountable and encourages robust debate and discussion on important issues. This ensures that the government’s decisions are thoroughly scrutinized and tested, leading to more informed and considered policymaking.
The absence of compulsory inclusion of the Opposition in executive decision-making allows for a clearer distinction between the government and its critics. This clarity is essential for the electorate to make informed decisions during elections. If the Opposition is part of Executive decision-making, then it cannot effectively offer itself as an alternative to the government because it would then be part of the very decision-making machinery which it seeks to replace.
In any event, the attempt by the APNU+AFC to benefit from rigged elections has raised concerns about its legitimacy and its credibility in representing its constituents. Elections are the cornerstone of any democratic system, and when there are credible and verifiable allegations of rigging or electoral misconduct, it undermines the very essence of democracy. The act of attempting to benefit from rigged elections suggests a willingness to subvert the will of the people, which is fundamentally undemocratic. This renders the APNU+AFC ineligible to serve as the legitimate representative of anyone.
When a political party is implicated in attempts to manipulate or undermine elections, it damages public confidence in the entire political system. The APNU+AFC’s involvement in such activities therefore not only disqualifies it from representing its constituents but also poses a broader threat to democracy and the integrity of the electoral process. APNU+AFC should be banned from any future participation in elections until it provides an unconditional apology for its actions and a promise to never again attempt to benefit from rigged elections.
It is a national travesty and an indictment of our system of legal system that to date no one has been jailed for being implicated in electoral fraud in the elections of March 2020. In the United States, one man was virtually sentenced to life imprisonment for his alleged role in the storming of the CAPITOL. Other persons are before the US courts on charges of electoral malpractice.
If the Opposition is implicated in rigging an election, it raises serious ethical and legal concerns that could warrant an investigation and potential consequences. In a democratic society, the integrity of the electoral process is paramount, and any attempt to manipulate or undermine it is a breach of electoral democracy. If substantial evidence exists to prove the involvement of the Opposition in electoral fraud or rigging, it is essential for the legal and judicial systems to take appropriate actions, which may include disqualifying individuals or the party from participating in the National Assembly.
The PPPC government is moving presently in the direction of shunning the parliamentary Opposition. But its alternative to go directly to the people cannot be substitute for ensuring a robust system of representative democracy. While it is understandable that the government should treat the parliamentary Opposition as a rogue force, the government must not presume that dealing directly with the people, and on its own terms, can ever be a substitute for a system of representative democracy that flows from free and fair elections.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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