Redefining Elections

There is a critical need to redefine Elections, and the culture of state elections in Nagaland. It will not be wrong to say that the present culture of state elections is actually contrary to the values that the election process ideally seeks to achieve. On one hand, one can claim that the present state electoral system is an alien system put upon the Nagas, while on the other hand, one can equally claim that the Nagas have to make full use of what it has at present, and therefore to actually exercise elections in a fair and judicious way to ensure governance that will prepare the Nagas for the future. Both these claims are indeed interrelated and cannot be separated and therefore the need to talk about the culture of elections is an unavoidable necessity. 

Election in Nagaland is now an apolitical election. The existing state electoral process is more of a procedural mechanism to electing individuals, rather than a participatory process to choosing leaders and it is from this point of reference that we find the shift in ethos. This is self evident by the quality of performances by successive politicians who have been in seats of authority; coupled by the empirical fact that elections tend to focus on force and power, rather than on issues that matter to people. Unfortunately, any society which fails to publicly talk about issues during elections finds itself in a state of acute public unaccountability. This ethos of unaccountability and brute force corrupts absolutely.    

It is often said that without elections, there can be no democracy and participating in elections is the principal, if not sole duty of the citizens of a democracy. This however is not the end by itself. It would be undemocratic to leave the honorable citizens to fend for themselves against the practices of the powers that be. Therefore, it must be said that without an honest and credible elections, there can be no democracy. Furthermore, it must also be said that without honest and credible elections and an informed electorate, there can be no democracy. The routine of elections therefore cannot be reduced to the act of voting alone, because that itself is not democracy. 

The pressing question therefore is, is the elections in Nagaland state honest and credible; and is it an informed electorate? Historical experience has shown otherwise. And hence, what are we supposed to do, ignore elections until we can fix them? That probably will just get us more elected officials who are less likely to fix them. Isn’t therefore imperative to redefine elections, to make it a truly democratic process which is honest, credible, and with an informed electorate. Considering it is a process, this means any transformation will have to take place in stages which will involve arousing critical consciousness amongst the people, holding elected officials accountable and responsible for their actions and policies; and most importantly creating an alternative system that supports and breeds an electoral process that truly reflects the will of the people.  

How serious are we about redefining elections? Can we begin by bringing issues of public importance to the table? Are we ready to follow candidates whose power of persuasion are based on policies and imaginative visioning for the well being of the people, rather than on other persuasive means? David Swanson says that “the health of our democracy can be measured by the wide range of candidate choices we’ve been offered.” Let’s take a good look at it. And I wonder, truly, how healthy is our democracy? Is it not time that we start telling the candidates that rather than only focusing on how to get elected, they need to focus on how to serve the people? Perhaps this is the crux of the issue. For some candidates, elections have become the end in itself, but for the people, it is only a means to better their lives. Perhaps the process to redefining elections must begin with voting responsibly on issues that matter most to us.