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Money & Politics In A Country

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The story of the boiled frog from OSI news: The poor creature is coaxed into the water. Then the heat is turned up, little by little. Before long, the water’s boiling, the frog’s cooked—and he never saw it coming.

The Court is doing the same thing to democracy by allowing ever greater amounts of money to flow into its campaigns and elections. But watching from afar, it seems as though the people from that country, like the frog, don’t fully understand what’s happening. This showcase democracy is becoming less and less democratic before our very eyes, as the political system is handed over to oligarchs. This should be an occasion for outrage.

Fewer than 25 percent of Americans can claim to be millionaires. But this year, for the first time in history, a majority of their representatives in the U.S. House and Senate had a net worth of $1 million or more, according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics. A candidate’s chances of winning are heavily influenced by how much money he or she has on hand; indeed, their bankroll often generates more coverage in the media than their views on the issues. And now, millionaires can give as much as they want to influence the vote.

In parts of Europe, there is state funding of political parties. This has made it possible for people who do not have millions, or friends with millions, to run for public office. But in the U.S. today, if you don’t have access to that kind of money, you won’t bother to run. From an overseas perspective, it seems you could organize a revolution, and it would probably be cheaper than winning an election. When organizing a revolution is cheaper than winning an election, something is very wrong.

The very definition of democracy in Asia (Burma) is a person who’s using his money to invest in politics in order to make more money. The Supreme Court has now declared this legal for certain limited amount. Under the ruling, one could spend kyats 1 lakhs to support a candidate who insists that people who have Kyats 1 lakhs should not have to pay taxes.

This will take a toll on an already disillusioned electorate. The people who seem least interested in voting are the young, the unemployed, the poor—the people you would normally believe have the most to gain from the political system. But people stop believing that elections have anything to do with the representation of their interests when all that money flows in; then, it’s just about the big donors.

According to John Gaventa, head of the Coady International Institute, “democracy means more than just holding elections. Its being involved in between elections, throughout the whole policy process – from what should be worked on to what the policies are to how they are funded, to whether or not the money reaches your communities”. CII equips ordinary people to have voice in shaping their communities, their environment, and the decisions that affect their everyday lives. From schools to garbage collection to electrical power to the environment, “Right now, we have to be aware that some have a lot more power than others, and some voices count a lot more than others,” he says. “A lot of what we’re thrying to do is to equalize that playing field”.

Some particular perspective countries have citizenship engagement and democratic processes are directly related with the day-to-day lives of young people. It includes how “elections” are being used to co-opt youth, how youth are exercising their power as social actors to negotiate their meaningful position in the entire spheres of society, and how new spheres of citizenship practices like social media are becoming the alternative platforms of collective action and influencing the mainstream politics from the margins.

We must also concern the questions like “is there any life before democracy and also after democracy?” India the world’s largest democracy country though least likely democratic is going through the biggest electoral process ever in the history of parliamentary elections in the country. The 815 million electorates have no role either before or after the election other than casting the vote on the scheduled day of the election.

Attempts to answer these types of questions often turn into a comparison of different systems of governance, and end with somewhat prickly, combative defense of democracy. It’s flawed, it isn’t perfect, but it’s better than everything else that’s on offer. Democracy is a working model: Western liberal democracy and India like countries are its variants. Kashmiri’s placard which said “the world’s largest demon-crazy = Democracy without Justice = Demon Crazy”.

In a democracy we have an obligation to resist powerlessness. Citizen and community engagement are the vehicles for acting on this obligation. The real targets for citizen engagement are elected and appointed public officials whose actions are driven by a deep commitment to corporate profits, not to public well being. John Gaventa already said that Democracy is not just about election, its mst be a continuously routine engagement of citizens through out the cycle of the democratic processes – offering level grounds and respect for all – actions which must be consciously designed to be all inclusive – by those in authority. Tose, save for limited civic education among the rural youth, are some of the key gaps still hindering citizen engagement in democratic process in most of Africa countries.

In Burma, the Court—the most isolated branch of government—is delegitimizing the power of the people. In a way, politics has become a business open only to millionaires, who run to become billionaires. Why do people tolerate this? A survey I saw recently reveals that the overwhelming majority of Burmese want to see the influence of money in politics curbed. But the overwhelming majority also believes that nothing will be done to address the problem. It strikes me as downright un-Burmese to lose all hope for change.

NOTE: (This article is fully credited to OSI news)


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