Role of voters: A key factor for successful democracy
In a truly democratic society, it is important to ensure a government that follows the will of the people rather than forcing them to follow it. Democracy as a concept was in most simple words explained by former US president Abraham Lincoln as “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Hence, democracy is not a government by some of the people and requires participation of all people; though in most cases, that is not possible but attempts should be there for full participation. We tend to put the responsibility of an election on the hands of our government or Election Commission but as a democratic nation, our voters have some vital roles to play in every aspect of forming a government.
According to the worldwide practice in both developed and developing countries there are few specific responsibilities of a voter. In our country, it is often observed that, people do not put proper emphasis on being registered as voter due to their lack of knowledge of the importance of their votes in the elections.
Moreover, many become voters from the constituencies where they actually do not live. In this process, they restrain themselves from exercising their rights to participate in the development of the residential constituency.
The process of registering as voter is also somewhat complicated in our country, though under the present government, the process has become comparatively easier through nationwide drive of registering voters.
As our literacy rate is not up to the mark, the process of registration to vote should be designed in such a way so that a person with minimum education can register as a voter.
The most important responsibility of the voters is to cast their votes in elections. Many people dismiss this responsibility by saying that they do not care about the issues on the ballot or the outcome of the election or that they are unfamiliar with the candidates up for election.
The outcomes of elections can impact voters’ personal freedoms, taxes, and other aspects of daily life that they take for granted. Because of the far-reaching impact that an election can have, people have the duty to cast their vote if they want a say in how their futures play out.
Another important responsibility of a voter is to keep his or her information updated. On several instances, a voter can change his area of residence from one constituency to another while our votes need to contribute in the development of our surrounding community. Other than that, several information of a voter can change time to time which needs to be updated on a regular interval.
The government takes the initiative to update these prior to the elections but the voters themselves should take this initiative. An updated voter information database is mandatory to hold a just and fair election. So, we need to update our information proactively to ensure proper utilization of our votes.
Along with these basic responsibilities of the voters, they have much stronger roles to play especially in countries like ours. It is the responsibility of the voters to choose the right candidates to represent their national interest.
Ignorantly, voting for the wrong candidates can jeopardize the future of an individual, his family, his society and nation. It is very critical to understand the importance of electing the right candidates and its macro level impact. Role of voters are fundamental with the concept of sustainable democracy in a country.
The basic principles of a democratic government include: the rule of law that nobody and no authority is beyond the law of the land, all fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expressions, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of assembly and civil liberties are guaranteed to all citizens in the country and that citizens’ rights cannot be infringed upon by anybody.
But to ensure these basic principles, it is important that, the voters cast their votes in complete freedom under no influence, intimidation or monetary favour so that only eligible candidates are chosen as elected representatives.
Due to poor actual literacy rate in our country, voters are unable to realize their importance in selecting appropriate representatives. Mostly, they are influenced by some people or group and blindly cast their votes as are guided, risking bringing terrorists, extremists and corrupt leaders to power.
However, they believe to have exercised their free voting rights, but actually, they are not. This influence can derive from a candidate’s wealth, fear of terror, and blindly following a party. On top of that, our citizens tend to reject the party in the government in the next election, despite good works done by them.
Understanding the perspective of the country’s development is too hard for the illiterate or semi-literate citizens of ours, let alone the concept of sustainable democracy. To improve this scenario, improvement in the actual literacy rate according to the standard of UNESCO must be given the highest priority.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government are putting high importance on education but more effort is needed to bring 100 per cent population under coverage of “actual” literacy.
It is always advisable to vote for credible people or candidates and not political parties as this determines the fate of the nation. Otherwise, the result is inept and corrupt leaders and politicians. So, we should take the initiative to vote for someone that reflects our overall views.
Regretfully, our people are still not ready to judge their option and are mostly emotionally driven. They must be careful to avoid electing a worse government for the next five years. Awareness drive should be launched now as the next national election is approaching soon.
If we can give a message to the political parties that we, as voters, will not blindly choose our representatives, then they will also bring in good political leaders who can ensure better future of our country.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice Chairman, Democracy Research Centre (DRC)