Blatantly undemocratic regimes and parties call themselves democracies – Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak’s party was called the National Democratic Party; the Stalinist one-party states of Eastern Europe were called People’s Democracies. Even the fascist British National Party (is a far-right political party formed as a splinter group from the National Front) said “Free speech and democracy are our absolute core values.”
However, democracy is also invoked by people who cannot be dismissed as rogues and opportunists. Nelson Mandela proclaimed his willingness to die for democracy just before being jailed by apartheid South Africa. Similarly Martin Luther King lost his life in the US deep south during a campaign that was first and foremost for democratic rights.
Karl Marx also was a committed democrat, before and after he became a communist, and so too were the Russian revolutionaries Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.
Even more importantly, millions of ordinary people have fought and died for democracy. The tradition stretches from the Levellers in the English Civil War, through the sans culottes of the French Revolution, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the anti-fascist fighters of the Spanish Civil War, the resistance fighters of occupied Europe in the Second World War to the Egyptian Kefaya activists, the Burmese monks and even the Pakistani lawyers.
It’s true that millions of people who live under what is generally thought to be democracy, in Australia, are currently bitterly disillusioned with it. Swap the word politics for democracy and people will blast to express their contempt,”it doesn’t matter who gets in, they are all the same”.
What is perplexing however is the facts that people deprived of democracy will lay down their lives for it, but once they have got it they rapidly become indifferent to it. Even the meaning of the word democracy has been under such sustained attack, that it has been successfully reversed the meaning in many people’s minds, from government by electoral consensus, to government by entities who purport to represent the people.
We should be uncompromising in our understanding here. Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people; nothing more and nothing less.
“While the Australia slide towards oligarchy, the forced elections in Afghanistan have brought no good. The west’s proudest export to the world this past decade has been democracy. That is, not real democracy, which is too complicated, but elections.
Australians followed and supported US government invasion into Iraq and Afghanistan, laid waste to much of the countries including entire villages and towns, and massacred untold numbers of civilians in order to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. We are told that our young soldiers are dieing in battle for it. For days Egyptians have been in the streets demanding it.
When apologists are challenged to show some good resulting from the shambles, they invariably reply: ‘It has given Iraqis and Afghans the vote.’”
So, what does all of this have to do with this week’s Broome Shire’s Recommendation 2 of Agenda item 9.1.3 LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS 2011 - Ordinary Meeting of Council 17 February 2011
The Shire recommendation
2. Determines the Shire of Broome 2010 Ordinary Council Election be conducted as a postal election in accordance with the provisions of Section 4.61(2) of the Local Government Act 1995.
In a postal voting election, election packages are posted to all eligible electors. They vote and then return their completed ballot papers and elector certificates by post to the Returning Officer.
The Broome township and the Dampier Peninsula communities do not have a postal service that does home deliveries, most people have a postal box, or have to go directly to the Post Office to access their mail. A lot of our fellow electors do not have accomplished literary skills and for many English is a second language. Many people will not and do not understand the postal voting process. So what is fair and open about this?
Currently, the local Electoral rolls have people’s place of residence addresses, not their postal details, who and how will these addresses be obtained? What assurances do we have that everyone will receive their elections packages? What will stop people accessing these election packages when a majority of them will be dumped in the bins provided at the post office? Who will ensure that all these packages will reach to voters in remote communities? Who will ensure that there is no buying and selling of votes or ballot tampering? Who will ensure that all the postal votes will be counted? Mail is known to go missing. It will also reduce the secrecy of voting for electors.
This item was previously discussed at Ordinary Council Meeting 14 May 2009 – Item 9.1.1
Where one of the COUNCIL’s RESOLUTIONS was
3. Gives further consideration and obtains community input into a change to conducting an election as a postal election in 2011 or future years.
This was CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY
Under CONSULTATION attached to this current new agenda item is states that:
discussions with officers from the Department of Local Government and the Western Australian Electoral Commission were undertaken.
But when did the Shire obtain community input into this proposed change. Is this democracy at its best?
Political equality should be a core value in any democratic society. It is based on the idea that all are born equal, deserve equal respect and opportunity and should have equal voice.
Put this way, the ideal of political equality is a rich but deceptively simple one. It exists in creative tension with another fundamental value, political freedom. Freedom asserts that people are born free and should, as far as possible, be the authors of their lives. Political freedom, then, is the ideal that people should be free to develop, express and advance their beliefs about what makes a good life in a good society.
In a free, capitalist society such as Australia, political equality and freedoms come together at several key points. People are not equal if one group’s vote is worth less than another’s. And nor are those groups likely to be free, because their political inequality is likely to lead to restrictions to participate in a democratic process and their ability to shape their destinies is limited because they do not have access to a postal service or can not read or write.
What is one to conclude from all of this? Is it that democracy is wonderful so long as those already in power remain there?
This is quite simple. We, the electorate, following considerable exposure to all the relevant information, should decide the direction and thrust of this policy change.
Ah, democracy, rule by the people, the promised path to just government and the end of tyranny. What ever happened to it?
Every polling system, whether it uses pencil and paper, punch cards, touch-screen (DRE), or any other method, must assure that voters are identified accurately and that their votes are counted accurately. It is also essential that the people have confidence in the results; in other words, that the system chosen not only conforms to these basic requirements, but that it does so in a manner that is clear and well understood by all participants. Every polling method should be as secret and anonymous, fair, accurate, and transparent as a well-managed paper-and-pencil balloting system:
Redhand encourages everyone to write and email to all the Broome’s Shire Councilors and attend the Shire Council meeting later in the week to voice opposition to this agenda item, otherwise the Egyptians might not be the only ones in the streets.