Plus - Letter to the editor

Polls and the wielding of power

An election is a process of choice, and, as it relates to persons, it implies that he or she – the person elected – is elevated to some high level for a purpose. Usually, the position is one of authority. The person chosen should use that authority in return to fulfil the expectations of those who chose him or her.

The emphasis is therefore on choice, and it follows that people will not choose someone who would harm them in any way, such as by depriving them of their basic needs – food, clothing and shelter , and also finances, their human rights, and even life itself.

When you compare political elections with elections for civic organisations and associations, you see a distinct contrast. Why?

  • In politics, no criteria/qualifications are required of the candidate, whereas with civic organisations, candidates must compete on the basis of qualifications,proven merit, past performance and experience.
  • Difference in size between the political and the non-political body.
  • Difference in the time in which the chosen can be subjected to another election is understandable as a political body takes time to formulate and implement policy. In a political body there is more opposition to policy than in a civic institution; opposition is the best vehicle to use against the chosen person.

The terminology used in the political and non-political domains is markedly different. In the popular jargon in Sri Lanka, the chosen person in politics is said to “come into power”; in both the political and non- political domains, the chosen person is elected “to office”. Office implies authority which in turn implies power, but not to imply naked power that corrupts and absolute power that corrupts absolutely. On the contrary, authority should imply responsibility and good governance.

That responsibility is to fulfil the expectations of the people who do the electing; it does not imply using bribes, which corrupts both the giver and the receiver.

Power is associated with coming into office through an election. By giving our politicians this power, we are virtually inviting them to wield power, rather than responsibility. Let us keep in mind the real meaning of an election, for the sake of the electors and those elected.

Manel Abeysekera, Colombo

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