(Opinions expressed here are those of the author.)
U Than Htay
With the imminent countrywide General Elections getting nearer and nearer, we could now see several political parties becoming more active, including the previously lethargic ones, scrambling for vote-wooing campaigns and hectic hustings. We would now hear more than our earful of vote-soliciting election campaign speeches by the responsible party functionaries from various political parties in TV and news media. As usual, these speeches will be euphonious, heart-warming and hope-promoting replete with rosy promises and mouth-watering assurances. As veteran voters, however, we should be able to distinguish grain from chaff, by now. We have seen a lot of chaffy characters in our parliaments at all levels during the past 5 years. Certainly these phoney parliamentarians should not be re-elected. We the voters, should see to that.
We do have one advantage now. In retrospect, we know, by person, who were the right representatives of the people as proved by their own attitudes, actions and performances in public service in the 3 spheres of the State Power, namely, the Legislature (Parliament), the Judiciary and the Administration (Government) during the past 5 years. I don’t have to name these people, for you all know them by name and their respective constituencies. By all means, we should vote for them, if they choose to run for their current parliamentary seats again regardless of their political party affiliations. If one or more happen to be independent candidates so much the better, for they don’t have to toe the party line and follow the mandate which might sometimes adversely affect the people’s welfare. All these people have proved their worth as true-blue people’s representatives.
At the same time, now we know who we should not vote for in view of their total lack or poor performances in public service in the past 5 years, if they reappear as candidates again. We could apply the same line of thought and action in selecting or rejecting the new candidates. This is what we could and should do this time.
When the chips are down, it is the individual, the doer, that counts, not her or his political party which is merely a badge. Exhorting the people to vote for one’s particular political party affiliation rather than the candidate herself or himself is, in my opinion, not only undemocratic but also unconscionable. It goes against the ever-veracious maxim in politics, that says: Man matters most. I could not help but detect in the exhorter’s exhortation, the veiled traces of doubt, desperation and desire for an all-out win in the forthcoming elections. After all, the dignity and dependability of any political party rest on the personal probity, admirable ability and laudable leadership of several politicians leading that particular political party. So, it is the people, but not the party who make things tick in politics.
Hodiernal political parties in Myanmar should train and bring forth their party members, especially the young generation, as capable cadres inspired with the deep conviction and utter willingness to do good for their countrymen, instead of exclusively serving their own party as prompted by the narrow-minded partisan spirit. This partisan spirit, as seen in our Myanmar parliaments, often clashes with the wish and welfare of the downtrodden people whom all the political parties here have sworn to serve. Not only that, this unscrupulous partisan spirit also generates vicious power plays in politics (heinous crimes by any standard) which are the dirty political stunts ruthlessly pulled by intransigent and power –mad politicians.
The most egregious and quite lethal power play in politics in very recent times was the one that we have witnessed in the neighbouring country, Thailand. There, the senseless standoff blatant and bloody, between the red shirts and yellow shirts of the two bitterly opposing political parties in Bangkok, crippled and incapacitated the country’s national economy and security to such extent that the military has to intervene at last with a coup d’ ‘etatto save the country from chaos. How stupid the people and how ruthless the politicians could be!
Similarly, in USA, reputedly the top democratic country, the political skirmish between the Congress (Republican majority) and the President (Democrat) left the country stymied for months resulting in the serious financial stringency for the Executive Branch (Federal Government) and coercive (rather undesirable) lay off of several innocent federal employees. What a despicable turn of events!
These two infamous incidents should remind us, the voters, how partisan spirit and power play in politics perpetrated by the ruthless politicianscould hurt the people. In our Myanmar parliaments too, we could see these political power plays, of course, on smaller scale,enacted under the guise of democracy. We could never forget that many a good motion which would substantially benefit the people but at odds with the interests of the majority of the parliamentarians got snuffed out by the majority partisan votes. The good out of the bad in such instances is that we know now who are really the trustworthy people’s representatives and who are political poltroons. Such revelations constantly remind us for whom we should cast our precious votes.
The current system of the franchise and election rules that favour the “winner takes all” tradition is, in reality, not conducive to the true practice of democracy. In this type of political climate, the major political parties will always go for an all-out win in elections, catering at first to the whims and fancy of the voters. Once that certain political party gains the required majority seats in the respective chambers of parliaments and is able to form one-party government with a good control on the parliaments as well, that winning party would run the country with her own party mandate which may or may not be in harmony with the voter’s interests and well being.
That is, what really is happening in (exceptions do exist) democratic countries in the world today, the bi-partite or tri-partite contention for political power. Shorn of its democratic election camouflage, it is, in short, one party’s rule, which could become as bad as one man’s rule, if the party leader turns power-mad and despotic. We could see such instances in some of the African States nowadays. We should not, in the first place, be gullible and naïve to let any political party to bamboozle us into believing that particular political party could be our sole saviour from our present miserable life conditions. Power corrupts people and parties. We all know that. Personally I believe safety in numbers. So I would not let any one person or party to get monopoly in political power just because I don’t want that person or party to dominate us. We all should realise and understand it.
Noxious political power plays mentioned earlier, do thrive in this sort of winner takes all political setup, as there will be frequent, if not constant, conflicts between the party in power and opposition party. No wonder, some of our Myanmar politicians want to change this lopsided election system to allow small political parties and those of our ethnic brethren fair chances in elections.
As such, the more we could have elected the party attachment free independent candidates to our parliaments, the better it would be in a way. I prefer to have rather a coalition government and parliaments where more different non-partisan people’s representatives (including those of our ethnic brethren) could have their say that would really benefit our countrymen.
More often than not, deeds done by rational brainwork are far better than those precipitated by emotional sentimentality.
So my concluding admonitory advice to all of my fellow voters is, cast your valuable votes intelligently but neither emotionally nor sentimentally.
(About the author
U Than Htay, a career geologist with 36 year active service and 11 years as an able Advisor, is a retired Deputy Director General from the Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration (DGSE), Ministry of Mines.)